Top tips to take the sting out of summer

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Many of us like to take advantage of the outdoors during the summer months and being outside we can also enjoy our wonderful British wildlife. However, on occasions this can also mean insect bites or stings.

To help take the sting out of summer, NHS Sandwell & West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has issued some top tips.

In most instances being stung or bitten is a minor nuisance. The affected area may get a little red or swollen and it may be slightly painful or itchy but it usually clears up within several hours. But to a child it may result in lots of tears and anxious parents.

The following tips can help you avoid insect bites and stings:

  • Remain calm and move away slowly if you encounter wasps, hornets or bees – don't wave your arms around or swat at them.
  • Cover exposed skin – if you're outside at a time of day when insects are particularly active, such as sunrise or sunset, cover your skin by wearing long sleeves and trousers. Wear shoes when outdoors.
  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin – repellents that contain 50% DEET (diethyltoluamide) are most effective. However, make sure you read the label first as many are not appropriate for young children. Check with your pharmacy for the best advice.
  • Avoid using products with strong perfumes, such as soaps, shampoos and deodorants – these can attract insects.
  • Be careful around flowering plants, rubbish, compost, stagnant water, and in outdoor areas where food is served.
  • Never disturb insect nests – if a nest is in your house or garden, arrange to have it removed (GOV.UK has details about pest control services and how your local council can help).
  • Avoid camping near water, such as ponds and swamps – mosquitoes and horseflies are commonly found near water.
  • Keep food and drink covered when eating or drinking outside, particularly sweet things – wasps or bees can also get into open drink bottles or cans you're drinking from.
  • Keep doors and windows closed or put thin netting or door beads over them to prevent insects getting inside the house – also keep the windows of your car closed to stop insects getting inside.
Dr Nick Harding, Chair at NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said:

“Most insect bites and stings are fairly minor and can be treated at home. The best thing to do is wash the area with soap and water and place a clean flannel or cloth soaked in cold water over the affected area to reduce swelling. Try to avoid scratching the area as this could cause infection.

“If the bite or sting is painful or swollen, you can wrap an ice pack, such as a bag of frozen peas, in a towel and place it on the swelling. To help ease symptoms painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be taken. Make sure you don’t give a child aspirin if they are aged under-16. Use a spray or cream that contains local anaesthetic, antihistamine or mild hydrocortisone (1%) on the affected area to prevent itching and swelling. An antihistamine tablet can help to reduce swelling but make sure you follow advice from your local pharmacist.

“In rare cases, some stings can be painful and trigger a serious allergic reaction, so if you see lots of swelling and blistering or if there’s pus, which indicates an infection, you should visit your GP or call NHS 111 for expert advice over the phone.”

NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it can also advise you where to go if you do need medical attention.

 

For more information about treating bites and stings, visit www.nhs.uk