Part one: Normal Insect Sting Reactions and How to Deal

It’s summertime which means more outdoor time and more time to get attacked by the insects we all despise. This two part series will go into the reactions of stings and treatment of normal and serious stings.

Normal (non-emergency) Reactions:

These reactions might be very uncomfortable but most are not serious and do not need emergency medical attention.

Common reactions:

  • Stinging
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Minor pain

Fire ants burn more than most stings and develop a small pimple or pustule the day after. Though it may last up to one week, it is not infected and antibiotics are not usually needed.

Reactions do not generally worsen with future stings.  However, any sting can result in a serious reaction.


  • Wash the area with water and soap and compress with a cold washcloth or ice pack.
  • Take an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl, Zyrtec or Claritin for itching.
  • Take ibuprofen or Tylenol for pain.
  • Stinger present: Remove it immediately. Don’t squeeze it, you might release more venom, but scrape it out with the edge of something small and hard. A credit card works best. Honeybees leave stingers that might contain more venom.
  • Try your hardest not to scratch the sting. You could accidentally break the skin and cause an infection.
  • Cortisone creams, like Cortaid, may lesson swelling and irritation.
  • Creams containing pramoxine can be soothing. Try Aveeno Anti-Itch or Gold Bond.
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