Bee Stings and Insect Bites: Diagnosis and First Aid Treatment

Bee On Hand

Insect bites are not at all an uncommon occurrence. Thousands of people all over the world experience insect bites daily.

Insect bites are often no cause for serious concern. These, however, are associated with a certain level of discomfort. And, depending on the insect that produced the bite and the person’s tolerance against these bites, the discomfort and irritation can affect daily activities like sleep and study.

In more severe cases, insect bites can lead to emergencies and even anaphylaxis-related deaths. Insect bites caused by bees, wasps, and hornets are the leading cause of these deaths, which can account for approximately 90 deaths a year according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI). Once an insect bite has triggered anaphylaxis, an ambulance may be required to bring the patient to the nearest hospital. You may opt for a private ambulance service for a quick response to this kind of situation.

Children are more prone to insect bites because of summer outdoor activities and clustered spaces in the school. Furthermore, the bites inflicted on them tend to heal slower due to their tendency to scratch the affected areas.

Read on to know more about bee stings, the most common insect bites, what you can do as first-aid treatment, as well as prevention tips.

What are insect bites?

Insect bites are puncture wounds or lacerations made to the skin by insects. These bites are either a form of defensive mechanism (such as in bees), or a means to feed (like in parasitic types such as mosquitoes). Either way, when an insect bites, formic acid is released in the process. This acid causes inflammation, redness, swelling, itching, irritation, and sometimes, pain.

The effects of insect bites vary. Some insect bites can only cause minor discomfort and irritation. Other bites, however, can have more adverse effects on the person bitten. A classic example is a bee sting.

What are bee stings?

Bee stings are wounds to the skin made by a bee or a wasp that can cause intense swelling and itching on the area that has been affected. Bee stings are considered a severe form of insect bite and can even lead to more serious circumstances like anaphylaxis.

Bee stings and insects that belong to the wasp family are some of the most common insect bites all over the world.

What makes a bee sting dangerous?

A bee sting is considered dangerous because, unlike other insect bites, bees have a barbed stinger. This barbed stinger produces venom that contains protein.

Like most allergies, this protein is detected by the body’s immune system as harmful.

For people who have bee sting allergies, a single bee sting can lead to serious immune system concerns. However, even if you are not allergic to bee stings, you still need to be careful not to get stung by bees as not every incident of a bee sting can yield the same reaction.

Multiple bee stings are a serious medical concern. This is because the accumulation of venom from each sting can cause a toxic reaction.

What are the most common insect bites?

Since Singapore’s geographical landscape has fewer forests and the country is generally a tropical climate with high humidity all year round, there are only a few known insects that inflict people on a daily, sometimes random, basis.

Apart from stings inflicted by bees and wasps, here are other common insect bites that you may encounter in Singapore.

  • Bed bugs
    These microscopic insects are responsible for causing tiny red spots on the body. These spots are often found on exposed skin areas like arms, hands, and neck. Bed bugs can produce red and itchy raised spots on the skin. In some cases, these bites can cause an allergic reaction.
  • Fleas
    While these parasitic insects commonly attack your pets, fleas can also bite humans.
  • Ticks
    Tick bites usually heal on their own unless the tick remains attached to the skin. These tick bites can become infectious so watch out for signs like a red and circular rash known as a bull’s eye rash. In the long run, you may need to seek medical help in this case.
  • Mosquitoes
    Mosquito bites are quite common. These bites appear as small white bumps on the skin, with a reddish spot. These bites are itchy. While mosquito bites often go away after a few days, you still need to be cautious about these insects as mosquitoes are known to carry serious diseases like malaria, yellow fever, zika virus, and chikungunya. Children are most prone to these diseases, so when it comes to them, it is best to exercise extra caution.
  • Spiders
    Although not classified as insects, spiders are included on this list as these are often encountered in the household, school, and just about everywhere. Spiders typically do not engage with humans. However, when they are on defensive mode, spiders can still bite. Spider bites tend to be painful and appear grey in the middle. They can also swell badly. Fortunately, there are no known venomous spiders in Singapore that could inflict intense damage to the person bitten.

What happens when an insect bites you?

Insect bites can have different effects on the skin, depending on the insect that produced the bite. However, the most common symptoms of an insect bite appear as:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Irritation

These symptoms usually disappear as days go by. However, when an insect that bit you is categorised as dangerous, the symptoms must be addressed immediately as these could either become a cause for infection or These situations may also call for proper first-aid treatment application. Such insects include bees and wasps.

Allergic reactions from bees and wasps may manifest in:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or throat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shock

First-Aid Treatment for Bee Stings and Insect Bites

Different insect bites may require different sets of first-aid treatment. Minor bites are easier to address, while bee stings and spider bites should be given immediate medical attention. You can also learn more about the proper way to performing first aid for bee string and insects with our standard first aid course.

For minor insect bites

For minor symptoms, here is what you can do:

  • If in case the insect’s stinger remains attached to the skin, scrape a flat-edged item like a credit card across the skin to gently remove the stinger. Use of tweezers is discouraged as these could squeeze the stinger and even release more venom in the process.
  • Clean the bitten area by washing it with soap and water.
  • Apply cold compress onto the affected area for at least 10 minutes. This reduces the swelling and the pain.
  • Apply a layer of calamine lotion to manage the pain and itching. You can also make a paste from baking soda and water and apply it as an alternative to calamine lotion.

For severe allergic reactions

If you notice someone may be experiencing allergic reactions from a bee sting, here is what you should do:

  • Have someone call emergency services. If you are alone with the person, make sure to call emergency services first before proceeding with treating the person.
  • If there is an epinephrine auto-injector that you can use, use it following the instructions on the label.
  • Ask them to remain calm, stay still, and lie down with their legs elevated.
  • If they start to vomit, turn them to their side so that they won’t choke.
  • Don’t give them anything to drink or eat.
  • Don’t put a tourniquet around the affected area.
  • If they start losing consciousness, perform CPR.

For venomous spider bites

Most spider bites are harmless. However, if in case you got bit by a black widow spider or a brown recluse spider which are both deadly, here is what you can do:

  • Seek emergency medical help.
  • Clean the bitten area by washing it with soap and water.
  • Make sure that they remain calm and still so that the venom does not spread.
  • Put a cold compress on the affected area.
  • Don’t give them anything to drink or eat.
  • Don’t put a tourniquet around the affected area.
  • If possible, take a picture of the spider that produced the bite. This will help the medical responders identify the proper treatment that should be given to the patient.

 

Prevention from Bees Stings and Insect Bites

Here are some simple ways on how you can prevent bee stings and other insect bites.

  • If you’re having a picnic outside, make sure to exercise caution whenever drinking sweet beverages. Check your cups, straws, and cans before drinking from them.
  • Make sure food containers and trash cans are properly covered.
  • Remove exposed garbage, fallen fruits, and dog and other animal waste so that these do not attract wasps.
  • Remain calm whenever you encounter bees, wasps, or hornets. Try to move slowly away from the bee. Refrain from waving your arms as you do so.
  • Wear closed shoes whenever going outside, if possible.
  • Avoid wearing brightly colored clothes or clothing that has floral prints as these are known to attract bees.
  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
  • Refrain from using products with strong scents and odors like perfume, soap, and shampoo.
  • Keep your windows rolled up when driving.
  • Be careful around flowering plants, trash bins, and stagnant water as bees, flies, and mosquitoes can be lurking nearby these locations.
  • Exercise caution whenever you are mowing the lawn or trimming plants as these could wake resting bees and wasps.
  • Keep the doors and windows closed or consider putting a thin net to prevent insects from getting inside the house.
  • If there are hives and nests near your home, have a professional remove them.

Frequently Asked Questions

A bee sting can yield different reactions per person. And even if you experience a mild reaction the first time you got stung by a bee, it doesn’t guarantee that you will only get a mild reaction once you get stung again.

A mild reaction from a bee sting can manifest as a sharp burning pain at the sting site, a raised part of the skin that is red, and slight swelling around it. This swelling usually goes away in a few hours.

A moderate reaction from a bee sting is indicated by extreme redness and swelling at the site of the sting.

A severe allergic reaction from a bee sting can put someone’s life at risk and must be given immediate medical treatment. The symptoms show up as:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Hives and itching
  • Pale or flushed skin
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

Yes. Allergic reactions are very common with bee stings as their venom contains protein. Most allergic reactions stem from protein.

Different insects are attracted to different colors. Dark colors and bright colors are both attractive for mosquitoes. Bright colors and floral prints attract bees.

Yes, bee stings are dangerous. This is because their stingers carry venom that produces a type of protein that could trigger allergic reactions.

Multiple bee stings are also a serious cause for concern even if you are not allergic to bee stings. Due to the accumulation of venom on the skin, multiple bee stings can lead to death if not given urgent medical attention.

Yes, children are more prone to insect bites. This is because most of their outside activities are done in summer, and insects are particularly more active during summer.

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