Scratches, bites and stings

Tracey Sullivan Pharmacy Features Writer

Ahhh summer, here at last. Long sunny days, bare feet, beach swims and staying up late to roast marshmallows after dark. All things that make wonderful childhood memories but occasionally a little bit of discomfort goes along with them when knees are scratched, feet get beestings, jellyfish bite and mosquitos prowl.

To cope with the scratches, bites and stings that accompany the school holidays, a first aid kit to have on hand is a must. Great things to include for summer are insect repellants, antiseptic cream and wipes, a range of sticking plasters and dressings, saline solution, calamine lotion, aloe vera gel, anti-itch creams and gels and oral antihistamines.

Scratches are quick to deal with. Wash the wounded area as soon as possible with warm water or saline. Remove any dirt or grit – you may need tweezers that have been cleaned with alcohol to do this. Apply an antiseptic cream or one that contains hydrogen peroxide. You don’t need need to cover every cut and scrape but if the wound is on an area of the body where it might get dirty or rubbed by clothes, cover it to protect it. A simple clear dressing can keep the wound moist and clean which can decrease scarring and increase healing time.

For stings, it is important to remove the stinger quickly to avoid venom getting in to the skin. Scrape the insect stinger out with the edge of a credit card or the blunt side of a knife. Don’t squeeze the stinger. Once out, or if no stinger is present, wash the area with soap and cold water. Hold an icepack or cold cloth onto the area. Calamine lotion or a paste of baking soda mixed with water can help relieve the pain. Most stings itch or hurt for one to two days but it can take up to a week for the swelling to go down. Treat the itch with oral anti-histamines and hydrocortisone cream. Bees and wasps are attracted to sugary drinks and fish so watch children when they are eating and drinking outside.

Applying firm pressure for around 10 seconds to a recent mosquito bite can help to stop the itch. Similar treatment to bee or wasp stings can relieve the discomfort, such as applying ice or a cold cloth, applying hydrocortisone cream or baking soda paste. If bites are very itchy a combination of a local anaesthetic cream or gel with an oral antihistamine can be very helpful. Use mosquito nets around beds in summer and try and get kids to wear long-sleeved pyjamas at night that fit snugly around wrists and ankles. Invest in a good repellant and apply liberally particularly around dusk when most mosquitos are more active.

Jellyfish stings are uncommon, but when they do occur can be particularly painful. Splash with lots of seawater then pull off any tentacles left on the skin using a dry towel or gloves if available. Pour on warmed up sea water if possible. Immerse the stung area in heated tap water (as hot as the person can bear) for 20 minutes. Elevate the area and apply ice to relieve pain. Oral antihistamines and pain relief will likely be needed to treat the itch and pain.

Do watch closely for signs of infection with any scratch, bite or sting and check daily. Keep kids nails short. Little fingers can easily damage the skin surface and with hot weather bacteria can multiply rapidly. What looked like a small insect bite can overnight turn into an angry sore that may require medical attention. Signs that a cut or bite has become infected are increasing redness and swelling, child complains of soreness to touch, red streaks in the skin surrounding the wounded area, weeping or pus from the wound and your child may even get a temperature. Should any of these signs occur, this will require a trip to the doctor without delay for a course of oral antibiotics.

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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