First Aid for Insect Bites

By Bill, posted
There is a higher prevalence of insect bites during the warm summer months within the UK. Luckily most of our insects are harmless and will only cause mild symptoms. They can however be extremely painful and may cause infection if left untreated. It is also important to recognise the symptoms of anaphylaxis, which is a life threatening form of an allergic reaction affecting small numbers of the population.
No one wants to be stung by a wasp, bee, mosquito, horse fly, midge, or hornet. These are some of the most common insect bites within the UK, which can cause a nasty inflammatory response in some individuals. Infants and young children are particularly at risk and may not know how to react to being stung for their first time. 

A little first aid knowledge can go a long way to alleviating the pain caused by a bite and ensuring that the affected area is clean and free from the risk of infection.


It’s useful to always ask questions at the scene in order to gather information that a person may have been stung by an insect. If this is not possible, or the casualty is unable to communicate their feelings then look out for the following symptoms:

  • Stinging pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itchy feeling on skin
  • Stinger remains in the skin (Bees)
Did you know - It’s generally only bees that leave their stinger in the human skin. And despite contrary belief it’s only the honey bee, and not all bees that die after stinging a person.


Once you have established that a person has been stung and they are calm and reassured. Then it’s time to apply a simple treatment protocol:

  1. Remove the stinger if still present. Scrape off with a bank card or other similar object.
  2. Wash the affected area with soap and water
  3. Apply an ice pack, or bag of frozen vegetables to the area for a maximum of 20 minutes (wrap in cloth to protect the skin).
Helpful Tip - Scraping the stinger off is preferable to squeezing it out with tweezers because it reduces the risk of pushing more venom into the affected area.


As always there are a few don'ts when treating an insect bite stings. It’s important to be confident in what you are doing and not to listen to unqualified advice that could go on to cause more harm. Here are a few don'ts to think about:

  • Use tweezers to pull a stinger out (see treatment section)
  • Issue medications which could themselves cause an allergic reaction
  • Scratch the skin, or pop blisters
Helpful tip - Scratching the skin, or popping blisters could increase the chances of infection.

When to Seek Qualified Medical Help

The main time you will need to dial 999 / 112 is if the signs of anaphylaxis are present. Always call the emergency services if a casualty is having breathing difficulties after being stung by an insect. They may carry an auto injector pen to treat the condition. Administer the auto injector pen yourself, by following the printed instructions if the casualty is unable to do so themselves.

In other situations it may be necessary to visit your GP if there are signs of infection within the bite area. Look out for a pussy wound that is swollen and may take the appearance of a yellowy / green crust.

Any fever, confusion or loss of urine production (not gone for 24 hours) could be a sign of sepsis and the casualty should be rushed to A&E, or call 999 / 112 if they have low response levels.

Photo by Angela Handfest on Unsplash

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