About 40 people die and 500,000 visit hospital emergency rooms in the United States each year as a result of insect stings. The deaths are caused by insect sting anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that requires immediate emergency treatment.

The majority of insect stings come from wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and bees, but fire ants and brown recluse spiders also create havoc in the South.

Call 9-1-1 if the person stung by an insect shows signs of a severe reaction:

  • Difficulty breathing, wheezing
  • Swelling anywhere on the face
  • Tightness in throat
  • Feeling weak
  • Turning blue

General first aid for bites and stings:

  • Remove the stinger, if still present, by scraping the back of a credit card or other straight-edged object across the stinger. Do not use tweezers. They may squeeze the venom sac and increase the amount of venom released.
  • Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Place ice on the site of the sting. Repeat a cycle of 10 minutes with ice and 10 minutes without.
  • Take an antihistamine or apply creams that reduce itching, if needed.
  • Watch for signs of infection over the next several days.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • Do not take stimulants, aspirin or other pain medication unless prescribed by a doctor.

For information about first aid for spider bites

For information about anaphylaxis shock from bee stings

For information about first aid for insect bites and stings