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How to treat insect bites and stings: A situation-based guide

Treat insect bites and stings

Spending time in nature is a great way to reduce stress, but in warmer months, that time outside often results in unpleasant bug bites or stings. From natural bug bite relief creams to very potent chemical treatments, there are many ways to treat insect bites and stings. Here is how to determine which treatment is best for your situation.


Before considering treatment options, be sure that you have moved to a safe location away from biting or stinging insects to avoid additional bug bites. Once you are safely indoors or away from the angry insect, you can assess the bite and move on to treatment options.

Insect bites and stings: Remove the stinger

If you were stung by an insect that leaves its stinger in your skin, such as some species of bees, be sure to remove the stinger immediately. The stinger will continue to release venom and cause pain and itching at the site of the sting. If you have a known severe allergy to bee stings, call 911 immediately and seek medical attention.

Apply anti-itch lotions or sprays

There are many over-the-counter creams, ointments, and sprays available to treat bug bites. Products with hydrocortisone are meant to reduce itch. These ointments are typically creamy lotions that do not sting or have any antiseptic properties.

Calamine lotion is a soothing cream that can help with itching and oozing. Natural options for reducing itch from a bug bite include ice and aloe vera. Slather one of these lotions onto the bite, and you should feel relief with a few minutes.

Related: Find out how to respond to other types of medical emergencies

Try an antihistamine

For more persistent itching or mild swelling around the site of the bite, an oral antihistamine might be needed. Products that contain diphenhydramine are often very effective in reducing more severe itch and topical swelling.

Many products containing diphenhydramine also cause drowsiness, so be careful if taking an antihistamine before driving or doing any activity in which drowsiness could be a safety concern. While these medicines are typically safe, always check with your doctor before taking any new medications.

Seek medical attention

Some people have severe allergies to certain bug bites or stings that require immediate intervention. If you experience any of these symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately: difficulty breathing, hives, swelling of the lips, eyelids, or throat, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea or vomiting.

Conclusions on how to treat bug bites and stings

If these methods do not relieve the symptoms of the bug bite or sting, contact your doctor for advice.

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