Summer is a great time for outdoor fun, but it's also a time for bug bites and other injuries. Don’t wait until an emergency happens to think about how you’ll respond.
Alison Sweet, MD, Medical Director, The Christ Hospital Urgent Care Centers, has tips to help keep your summer safe.
Stock your first-aid kit
A first-aid kit is an easy way to be prepared for a medical emergency.
Your first-aid kit should contain:
- ibuprofen for swelling
- naproxen for pain
- bandages for small cuts
- sterile gauze and tape for larger scrapes that don’t require medical attention
- plastic bags for placing ice on sprains
- EpiPen for family members with a history of allergic reaction
- Polysporin or other antibiotic ointment
Caring for bug bites
Not every bug bite will require medical attention. There are a few rules to help you decide if you need to go to the emergency room (ER) or urgent care.
“Anyone who has had a previous serious reaction or those who have suffered multiple stings at once shouldn’t think twice about going to the hospital,” says Dr. Craven.
The very young, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems should also seek medical attention.
Get to a hospital if you experience:
• shortness of breath
• tightness in the chest
• swollen throat
If symptoms develop quickly, it’s likely a sign of a serious reaction. Get to the nearest hospital or call 9-1-1 right away.
Less serious stings and bites can be treated at home:
• Elevate the area to minimize swelling.
• Take an antihistamine or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation.
• Apply ice.
• Watch for secondary infections.
• In addition to the antihistamine, you can also apply a mixture of baking soda and water to relieve itchiness. Household ammonia is a popular and effective anti-itch remedy, as well.
“Devices such as an EpiPen can quickly deliver a dose of epinephrine to stop the allergic reaction,” says Dr. Craven. “I would err on the side of over-treating than under-treating. When in doubt, contact your local urgent care.”
Use caution when removing a stinger, especially if you see a small sac attached. Squeezing the sac will release the insect’s venom.
Treatment for cuts and burns
“Timing is key when dealing with cuts and scrapes,” says Dr. Craven.
A doctor should clean and close cuts that are larger than an eighth of an inch or have debris in them.
If a burn looks to be second-degree (blistered) or third-degree (charred, dry white-looking skin) get to the ER. Keep any blisters intact.
Chemical burns, which can be caused by mishandling swimming pool chlorine, or electrical burns should be treated at an ER, as well as burns covering more than 5 percent of the body or burns to the face or hands.