Country Traditions

September 17, 2010

Insect Bites and Stings

Colour print of the yellow fever or dengue mos...

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Bees, Mosquitoes, and Ticks

Here’s some quick first aid tips for those annoying—and sometimes painful—insect bites and stings.

Bee Stings

  • If you have a history of severe reactions to insect stings, call emergency medical services.
  • If the stinger is still present, remove it immediately. Gentle scrape the skin with a credit card, your thumbnail, or a blunt knife.
  • Don’t pinch the stringer with your fingers or tweezers because this could squeeze more venom into the skin.
  • Apply ice or cold packs to constrict the capillaries and to reduce swelling.
  • Clean the area with soap and water and apply a hydrocortisone cream or a mixture of baking soda and water.
  • If no other treatment is available, just scoop up a handful of mud and hold it on the sting until the mud dries or apply a slice of onion to the spot and hold it for a minute or so.

Mosquito Bites

  • Male mosquitoes feed only on nectar, whereas female mosquitoes nourish their developing eggs with protein rich blood.
  • Mosquitoes prefer to bite ankles and wrists, where blood vessels are nearer to the skin’s surface.
  • Mosquitoes spit an anticoagulant under our skin, leaving us with whatever disease they’re carrying (encephalitis, malaria, West Nile virus, yellow fever).
  • Lemon Eucalyptus oil can be used to repel mosquitoes.
  • Cool the area of the bite to constrict the capillaries near the skin’s surface and to reduce swelling. Try a cool compress.
  • Remember not to scratch the bite; This will only make it worse.

Tick Bites

  • Ticks are the leading carriers of diseases to humans in the U.S., and second only to mosquitoes worldwide. Similarly to mosquitoes, toxins in the tick’s saliva cause the disease.
  • Hard ticks have a tough back plate and tend to feed for hours to days. With hard ticks, disease transmission usually occurs near the end of a meal.
  • Soft ticks have a more rounded body and lack the back plate. They usually feed for less than an hour and disease transmission can occur in less than a minute.
  • Lyme disease is caused by hard ticks including deer ticks. Sitting on a log in the woods, leaning up against a tree or gathering wood are risky activities when trying to avoid ticks.
  • Tick bites are generally painless and may go completely unnoticed. You may notice a red, circular bump and some itching and burning once the tick is removed.
  • To remove a tick, use tweezers to flip the tick over on its back
  • Grasp the tick firmly with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Try to grasp the ticket close to its head; avoid squeezing the tick’s abdomen.
  • Pull gently until the tick comes free. Do not twist and turn the tick, as the head or mouth parts may break off and stay in the skin, increasing the chances for infection.
  • Do not use petroleum jelly or a match to remove the tick.
  • Crushing the tick may transmit diseases. Rinse it down a sink or flush it down a toilet.
  • Clean the bite area with soap and water or a mild disinfectant and observe the area for several days.
  • Illnesses transmitted by the tick often begin only days or weeks after the tick is gone. If symptoms occur, tell the physician if you have been outdoors. Symptoms may include fever, numbness, rash, confusion, weakness, pain and swelling in the joints, shortness of breath, nausea, and/or vomiting. Blood tests are needed to diagnose any illness.
  • To avoid ticks, stay away from outdoor areas where ticks thrive during the months of April through September.
  • Tuck pants into boots or socks. Wear light colored clothes so ticks can be easily spotted and brushed off. Apply insect repellent. Promptly check yourself, others, and pets if exposed to tick areas.

Tips to Eliminate Itch

  • To eliminate the itch of insect bites, rub on meat tenderizer or lemon juice.
  • White vinegar is another remedy for relieving the itch of insect bites. Apply it in full strength. Don’t use vinegar if the area is raw.

Tips to Repel Insects

  • Rub cider vinegar on your skin to repel insects – if you take in enough cider vinegar by putting it on foods you eat, you’ll develop a body odor that will repel insects, including black flies.
  • Rubbing the skin with baby oil or imitation vanilla extract repels biting insects such as mosquitoes and black flies.

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