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Comment soulager une piqûre d’insecte ?

How to alleviate an insect bite?

Occasionally, primarily during the summer period and despite preventative efforts, insect bites and stings occur, causing varying degrees of pain and discomfort. However, the majority of these nuisances can be soothed through simple actions and home remedies. What are they?

Why do some insects sting or bite?

With the heat of summer, insects become plentiful.The majority of these creatures sting or bite in order to defend themselves or protect their territory. Generally, this situation arises when we get too close to them and/or make sudden movements. They then perceive a threat and defend themselves by stinging.

Furthermore, certain insects such as mosquitoes and ticks bite in order to feed. For instance, in mosquitoes, only the females bite to sustain themselves on human blood for reproduction purposes.

Some bites are completely painless (such as those from mosquitoes) while others can be painful. Generally, an allergic reaction to the venom deposited by the labrum (the insect's mouth) or its sting occurs subsequently.

The vast majority of insect bites are benign and the discomfort they cause is minor. However, in cases of allergy to an insect's venom and depending on the location of the bite, some bites can be severe or even fatal.

What happens after an insect bite?

In response to threats, our body secretes histamine, which often results in itching or sometimes an inflammatory reaction. With itching, we are tempted to scratch the wound. However, persistent scratching can spread the inflammation and ultimately leave a scar.

The severity of a bite will depend on the insect, the skin's reactions, and the location of the bite. Sometimes, the itching can last several days and prove to be unpleasant. There are natural methods available to alleviate insect bites.

What measures should be taken after an insect bite?

To soothe insect bites from the comfort of your home, the following advice should be remembered.

  • Immediately after the sting or bite, begin by cleaning the affected area with an antiseptic solution to limit the risk of infection. If the stinger is still present in the skin, it should be gently removed without pressing on the venom sac by scraping with the back of a knife or another sharp object. Tweezers are not recommended as they can squeeze the venom sac and therefore increase the amount of venom released into the wound.

  • The pain associated with certain stings, such as those from bees or wasps, can be alleviated through the use of an over-the-counter painkiller (unless contraindicated), such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen. It is important to always refer to the instructions provided on the leaflet and seek advice from your pharmacist.

  • Regarding bites that itch intensely, such as those from mosquitoes, applying cold (ice pack, ice cubes, cold water compresses) stops the itching for a certain period of time. It may also be recommended to resort to an over-the-counter anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone (cortisol hormone).

  • If the bitten or stung area swells and forms a blister, cold is an excellent remedy. Do not hesitate to apply an ice pack to the affected area.

  • Resorting to certain essential oils to soothe insect bites is also relevant. For instance, a drop of aspic lavender essential oil applied pure to the site of the bite every 15 minutes for 2 hours will alleviate inflammation and promote healing.

When should one seek consultation?

Most of the insect bites and stings are harmless. However, if the redness continues to spread and becomes very painful, it is necessary to consult your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible. It is important not to excessively scratch the bitten area to avoid causing an infection.

If a sting occurs in the throat or on the tongue, it is imperative to immediately call for emergency assistance or go to the emergency department, as this can obstruct breathing.

Furthermore, if symptoms such as chills, sweating, drop in blood pressure, discomfort, vomiting appear, contact emergency services immediately.

Some individuals are allergic to the venom of wasps or bees. Their stings can trigger in them a anaphylactic shock or a Quincke's edema, two physical reactions that can be fatal.

Thus, after an insect bite, it is always better to remain vigilant to the slightest symptoms. If you have any doubt about the severity of the bite/sting, do not hesitate to consult your general practitioner!

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