Insect bites are most commonly just a minor nuisance, but they can occasionally lead to more serious issues. Learning how to manage insect bites involves educating yourself on the various threats, making sure an allergic reaction isn’t taking place and watching the bite to ensure healing is occurring.
The Scary Threats: Which Unwanted Creatures are Dangerous?
It’s possible to have an allergy to any type of bug bite, but certain insects and animals can present a danger to everyone. These include:
• Brown recluse or black widow spiders.
• Certain species of scorpion.
• Killer bees, wasps or hornets, which are not inherently life threatening but can present a danger when many stings are received at once.
• Venomous snakes.
The Snake Bite Protocol
The Houston/Pearland area is home to six species of venomous snakes including the Texas coral snake, copperhead, western cottonmouth, western pygmy rattlesnake, western diamondback rattlesnake, and the timber rattlesnake. If you’re bit by any of the snakes mentioned above, consider it a medical emergency requiring a trip to the emergency room. Anti-venom will need to be administered as quickly as possible. Do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital—have someone drive you or call an ambulance. If you’re not sure about the snake species you were bit by, don’t wait to find out: follow the venomous snake bite protocol just to be safe in case the snake was in fact venomous.
If you’re bitten by a snake that is non-venomous, you’re in far less danger, although a bite can be painful and potentially lead to infection. Clean the bite immediately by running clean water over the wound and drying gently with a towel. It’s also best to visit an urgent care clinic to assure that the bite is properly treated and to prevent further complications.
Bug Bites: How Can You Treat Them at Home?
Most minor bug or spider bites can easily be treated at home. If you have no reason to think that an allergic reaction is occurring, you can follow these simple steps and get to feeling better fast.
1. Apply an Ice Pack
Reduce swelling by elevating the area with the bite and holding an ice pack against it for 15 to 20 minutes. You can do this once an hour for the first six hours.
Use a nonprescription itch cream to help reduce the urge to scratch. You can also take an antihistamine. However, it’s important to keep in mind that children should not take an antihistamine without the approval of a doctor.
Visiting Urgent Care: When is it Necessary?
Scratching bug bites can sometimes lead to staph infections in the skin. While rare, these infections can become serious if left untreated. If you notice the swelling increase, see pus seeping from the bug bite, or the area surrounding the bite appears very red and hot, then you should visit your local urgent care center right away. The infection can be treated with antibiotics, but don’t wait too long—the possibility of complications increases the longer you wait.
A Severe Reaction: When Should You Visit the Hospital?
Serious allergic reactions require medical treatment right away. Symptoms of a major allergic attack include:
• Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and swelling in the throat.
• Swelling of the mouth, eyes, hands or feet.
• Dizziness or confusion.
• Hives or other rashes of the skin.
• Nausea, stomach cramps or diarrhea.
Once again, if you’re bit by a venomous snake or spider, we advise an immediate trip to the ER where a doctor can administer an anti-venom.
Severe allergic reactions can be fatal, so don’t attempt to drive yourself to the hospital if you think you might be having one. It’s best to call an ambulance in this situation. The emergency medical technicians will have medication that can begin treating the reaction on the way to the hospital.