Emergency advice

Insect stings:

  1. Call 999 for a severe reaction.
  2. Scrape sting off.
  3. Raise and apply something cold.
  4. Monitor breathing and level of response.

What are insect stings?

Insect stings can be painful but are not usually dangerous. However, if the insect sting is in the mouth or throat this can be more serious as it could lead to swelling of the airway and obstruction. Watch for signs of an allergic reaction, which can lead to anaphylactic shock.

Signs and symptoms

Look for:

  • stinging pain
  • redness which is spreading
  • swelling
  • irritation or itching
  • Hives (rash with red, raised, itchy bumps)

What to do

  1. Reassure the casualty. If you can see the sting, brush or scrape it off sideways with something firm like a fingernail, credit card or plastic ruler as soon as possible.

    • Don’t try to use tweezers to pull it out, because you could squeeze poison from the sting into the casualty.
  2. Raise the affected area and hold something cold against the injury to help reduce the swelling.  Use an ice pack or a frozen bag of vegetables which is wrapped in a tea towel or thin towel to avoid direct contact of the ice with the skin.

    • Keep the cold compress on for 15 - 20 minutes.  You can repeat this each hour, but do not leave the ice on for longer than 20 minutes each time.
    • If the sting is in the mouth or throat, the casualty can suck an ice cube or sip cold water to try to prevent any swelling.
  3. Monitor their breathing and level of response.

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Related first aid advice

Animal bites

If an animal bite breaks the skin, you need to treat it to prevent the risk of infection. Learn what to do.

Spider bites

Some spider and insect bites and stings can cause serious illnesses and in some cases be fatal. Find out what to look for and what to do.

Tick bites

Ticks can carry diseases and so should be removed as soon as possible. Find out what to look for and what to do.

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