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Q: What can be done for itching and pain from bites and stings?

Posted September 18, 2013 in Advice Column, Winterset

A: Oral over-the-counter antihistamines can bring itch relief. Oral OTC drugs, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can provide relief of pain from bites and stings.

In addition, there are many topical OTC drugs that are applied to the skin and can provide itch and pain relief. Some of these topical OTC drugs are labeled as “external analgesics” or “topical analgesics.” They contain ingredients such as hydrocortisone, pramoxine and lidocaine. There are also topical OTC drugs labeled as “skin protectants” that provide itch relief for insect bites and stings. These products contain ingredients such as colloidal oatmeal and sodium bicarbonate.

When is medical attention needed?
Most bites and stings are minor and can be treated at home. But you should seek medical attention if you experience the following symptoms:

• Signs of allergic reaction: Some people can experience anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. This is a medical emergency that warrants calling 9-1-1 immediately. Signs of an allergic reaction, which may occur within seconds to minutes, include sneezing, wheezing, hives, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sudden anxiety, dizziness, difficulty breathing, chest tightness and itching or swelling of the eyes, lips or other areas of the face. If you or your child has ever had an allergic reaction to a sting or bite, you should be evaluated by an allergist. In some cases, you may be advised to wear a medical identification tag that states the allergy, and to carry epinephrine, a medication used to treat serious or life-threatening allergic reactions. Sometimes allergy shots may also be recommended.

• Signs of infection: It is normal for a bite or sting to result in redness of the affected area and minor swelling. But if a bite or sting becomes infected, a fever may develop or the redness or soreness may worsen. In cases of infection, an antibiotic is the typical treatment.

• Symptoms of Lyme disease: Lyme disease, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick, can cause fever, headaches, fatigue and a skin rash that looks like a circular red patch, or “bull’s-eye.” Left untreated, infection can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system. It is rarely, if ever, fatal. Patients who are treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely. Antibiotics commonly used for oral treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin or cefuroxime axetil (Ceftin). People with certain illnesses related to the heart or the nervous system require intravenous treatment with drugs such as ceftriaxone or penicillin.

• Symptoms of West Nile virus: West Nile virus, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, can produce flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, body aches,and skin rash. While most infected individuals have mild disease and recover spontaneously, infection can be serious or even fatal. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus.

Information from www.medicine.com, provided by Winterset Care Center North, 411 E. Lane St., 462-1571 and Winterset Care Center South, 715 S. Second Ave. 462-4040.





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