Horsefly bites can trigger severe allergic reactions. These painful bites will develop into a large, red, itchy lump within minutes’A sting or bite can do anything from triggering minor irritation to causing huge blisters and, in rarer cases, serious complications. That’s why it’s vital to know what has happened and how to deal with it.’ Here, with the help of experts, we explain what’s out there on the attack and how you can protect yourself during the warmer weather. WASPS
INSTANT TREATMENT: ‘A wasp can sting you several times since it doesn’t leave its sting in you,’ explains Dr Shuaib Nasser, a consultant allergist at Cambridge University NHS Trust. ‘You’ll feel sharp pain and, depending on how you react to the venom, you may get a raised lump and swelling. This will usually last a few days. Apply a cold compress for relief, or use calamine to calm the pain. Taking an antihistamine tablet or using an over- the- counter preparation such as Wasp-Eze may help to soothe the itch and inflammation.’
WHEN TO SEEK HELP: ‘If the swelling is larger than the size of your hand then it needs steroid cream to reduce the inflammation,’ adds Dr Nasser.
‘However, if you get swelling anywhere else, such as on the lips, have difficulty breathing or feel dizzy, you must get help immediately as you may be suffering with anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction. In rare cases, this can be fatal – five people die a year from this.’
Anaphylaxis can happen without warning, and needs treatment with an injection of adrenaline. Those allergic to wasps and bees should wear an alert bracelet and carry two doses of adrenaline with them.
INSTANT TREATMENT: ‘When a bee stings, it leaves its barbed stinger attached in the skin as it flies off,’ explains Dr Nasser.
‘This has a venomous sac attached to it, which is why you need to remove the stinger carefully to avoid puncturing the sac and causing the venom to spread. To do this, gently grasp the sac and flick it out with something that has a hard edge, such as a bank card.
‘Treat pain and swelling in the same way as wasp stings.’
Lloyds pharmacist Marie Fitzgerald adds: ‘Steer clear of treating with household remedies such as vinegar or bicarbonate of soda, as you can’t always be sure what has bitten you. Treating an acidic bee sting with vinegar or an alkaline wasp sting with bicarbonate of soda will further aggravate the skin.’
WHEN TO SEEK HELP: Bee stings can also cause anaphylaxis so seek medical help immediately at the first sign of any symptoms.
INSTANT TREATMENT: ‘A single flea will often bite five times, producing a cluster-like rash,’ explains dermatologist Dr Andrew Wright. ‘This usually happens below the knee or around the ankles. Soothe the itching with calamine lotion, but do not to use too much as it can dry the skin.’
WHEN TO SEEK HELP: If you are very sensitive to flea bites, they can lead to a condition called papular urticaria where a number of itchy red lumps form. See your GP for treatment, which usually involves steroid creams or lotions that reduce inflammation.
INSTANT TREATMENT: ‘Bites on the face and neck are often caused by bed bugs, although they can happen all over the body,’ explains pharmacist Sean Woodward, a spokesman for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. ‘Wash bed linen at high temperatures and vacuum your mattress. Steroid cream will help relieve inflammation.’
WHEN TO SEEK HELP: Bed bugs can trigger an allergic reaction that can bring on an asthma attack, so sufferers should be vigilant if travelling to a country or city where bed bugs are rife.
INSTANT TREATMENT: ‘It’s rare to feel the moment a mosquito bites as they inject an anaesthetic before they insert their probe into the skin,’ explains Dr George Kassianos, immunisation expert for the Royal College of GPs and a spokesman for the Malaria Awareness Campaign.
‘The itch can develop up to several hours later depending on an individual’s sensitivity. Bites produce a red itchy lump.’ Treat the bites with a topical antihistamine such as Anthisan Bite & Sting Cream. This blocks the histamine receptor sites in your nerve endings, which reduces swelling and skin irritation.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP: Scratching a bite can cause a localised infection that may require antibiotics. Some mosquitoes carry malaria or other diseases. Speak to your GP about vaccines. Be aware that symptoms may not appear until up to 14 days after travelling abroad. Even if you haven’t been to an affected country, you can get what is known as ‘airport malaria’ by picking it up from planes from malarious places.