Mild localized itching, swelling, or discomfort requires a call your health care provider for advice.
Worsening of local symptoms over a few days may be evidence of infection at the sting site. Pain, increased swelling and redness, and warmth suggest an infection. Call your health care provider for an appointment the same day.
If you had a reaction in the past, even if you used an epinephrine injection kit for this sting, go immediately to your medical office or hospital emergency department, whichever is closer. Even if you have treated yourself, you still need to be evaluated to make sure that your symptoms are resolving and are not recurring.
Hives or rash or swelling all over your body, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or dizziness or fainting suggest an anaphylactic reaction and require immediate medical attention.
For most insect stings, home care is all that is necessary.
Take an antihistamine pill, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl). This helps counteract one of the mediators of the reaction and will help control itching. Diphenhydramine is available without a prescription. Caution - this medication makes most people too drowsy to drive or operate machinery safely. It can be taken every 6 hours for the first few days, until the swelling begins to improve.
Hydrocortisone cream, available over-the-counter, can be applied to the site of the insect sting to relieve itching.
A paste of baking soda or salt and water, rubbed on the skin, may provide relief.
An over-the-counter lotion such as calamine can help.
If a blister develops at the site, keep the area clean but do not break the blister.
Do not be alarmed if the reaction takes 2-5 days to heal. Continue treatment until all symptoms are gone.
For more severe reactions, self-treatment is not recommended. Call your health care provider or 911, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Do not attempt to drive yourself. If no one is available to drive you right away, call for an ambulance. If you have symptoms of anaphylaxis, here's what you can do while waiting for the ambulance:
Make sure that all of your health care providers are aware of the type of reaction you have had.
If you have had a severe or all-over reaction, you should be given a prescription for an epinephrine injection kit (EpiPen) when you leave the hospital.
if you have a severe or all-over reaction to an insect sting, you should see an allergy specialist (allergist). Desensitization therapy is available for some types of venom allergies.
Take precautions to avoid insect stings in the future.
Evaluation by an allergist for desensitization injections has been shown to be of benefit.
Obtain one or more epinephrine injection kits if this has been prescribed for you.
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