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Insect Bites and Stings - When Is It an Emergency?

Insects are all around us, whether in the city or in the wild. Insects can harm humans through two mechanisms: biting and stinging. Spiders, fleas, ticks and many other insects bite. In some cases, the bite itself can only hurt or cause itching, but in other cases, it can also insert venom or bacteria that can cause various diseases. Bees, wasps and other insects sting and insert venom into the body.

Insect Bites and Stings Symptoms

There is a difference between a regular reaction to a sting and an allergic reaction.

The bite of a venomous insect usually results in immediate pain, redness, local swelling, and itching. Usually, it is not dangerous.

However, sometimes, when the sting occurred in sensitive places such as the tongue or palate- even a normal response of swelling, without sensitivity, can narrow the airway to the lungs. That is why every bite in the mouth is a medical emergency and requires urgent medical assistance.

  • An allergic reaction to stinging - Some people are sensitive to certain substances found in the venom injected into the body following the bite. They may not only have a local response but a general reaction. A general allergic reaction can be minor or severe. A minor allergic reaction involves a rash and itching in several areas of the body. A severe allergic reaction can include a rash, itching, swelling of the body, enlargement of the blood vessels, narrowing of the airways and a decrease in blood pressure, this response is a medical emergency.

  • Secondary infection after biting - as in any other skin injury, especially if the injury was accompanied by itching - skin infection may be caused by bacteria. The infection usually causes swelling, redness, and pain. These symptoms may last a few days after the bite.

  • Multiple bites - If you were exposed to many bites by venomous insects - for example, a wasp swarm - a medical emergency may arise because of the large venom that the body absorbs in a short time. Large amounts of venom can damage various systems in the body, so in case of multiple bites, it is advisable to receive medical treatment. This is especially important for children since a small amount of venom is enough to cause them significant damage.

When Should You Seek Emergency Medical Care?

In any situation of an allergic reaction, you should receive immediate medical care.

Look out for the following warning signs that require medical attention:

  • Fainting or extreme dizziness.

  • Shortness of breath, hoarseness or wheezing during breathing.

  • Significant swelling - especially in the face, lips, and tongue.

  • Abdominal pain, intestinal cramps, diarrhea or vomiting.

Any sting in the mouth, especially a tongue bite, requires immediate medical attention, even if you don’t experience any of the above symptoms.