Summer’s Bad B's: Addressing bugs, bites and burns
Now is the time to go hiking, have a picnic, or gather around a campfire. Jeffrey Craven, M.D., medical director of The Christ Hospital Urgent Care Center explains how to keep you and your family safe while enjoying the great outdoors.
Bugs & Bites
The chances of getting stung by an exotic insect in Cincinnati are slim, but bites and stings from everyday bees and bugs can still kill your summer buzz. Bites or stings from mosquitoes, noseeums, wasps and bees are typical for this region. Spider bites from black widow or brown recluse spiders are less common but potentially more serious.
Not every bite or sting will require medical attention, but there are a few rules of thumb to help you decide if you need to go to the ER, urgent care, or treat the sting at home.
“Anyone who has had a previous serious reaction such as wheezing, fainting or widespread hives, and those who have suffered multiple stings at once shouldn’t think twice about going to the hospital,” says Dr. Craven, who has more than 36 years of clinical and administrative experience in emergency department and urgent care settings. The very young, the elderly, or those with weakened immune may experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling lightheaded
- Tightness in the chest
- Wheezing or swelling of the throat
- Widespread hives
The more rapid symptoms seem to be developing, the more likely it is 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 by following these easy steps:
- For wasp and bee venom, diluted ammonia or baking soda paste can help neutralize it if applied immediately
- Elevate the area where the bite or sting occurred to minimize swelling
- Take an antihistamine and/or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation
- Apply ice
- Watch for secondary infections
“Devices such as an EpiPen® can quickly deliver a dose of adrenaline or epinephrine to stop an anaphylactic reaction,” says Dr. Craven. “I would err on the side of over-treating than under-treating.” If there’s a stinger left behind from the bee or wasp, use caution when removing it, especially if you see a small sac attached. Squeezing the sac will release the insect’s venom.
Burns & Scrapes
Burns from errant grill coals or mishaps with the campfire are almost always contaminated by debris like soil and are difficult to care for at home. If the burn looks to be second degree (characterized by blisters) or third degree (charred or dry, white looking skin) get to the emergency room. Keep any blisters intact to preserve the sterility of the area.
Chemical burns — caused by concentrated chlorine, strong acids or alkalis — and electrical burns should be evaluated at an ER. Burns covering more than 5 percent of the body or extensive burns to the face or hands should likewise be seen in the ER.
“Timing is key when dealing with cuts and scrapes,” says Dr. Craven. If your cut pulls apart more than 1/8 of an inch or you see debris in the cut, it’s best to have it cleaned and closed in the ER or an urgent care center (UCC).
Get Prepared for Summer
Don’t wait until an urgent situation arises to think about how you’ll address it. A well-stocked first aid kit is an easy way to be prepared for the unexpected medical emergency.
Dr. Craven recommends your family’s first aid kit contain the following:
- Benadryl (for allergic reactions)
- Ibuprofen (to relieve mild swelling and inflammation)
- Naproxen (for inflammation and swelling)
- EpiPen® (if anyone in your family has a history of severe allergic reaction)
- Bandages (for small cuts and scrapes)
- Sterile gauze and tape (for larger scrapes that don’t require medical attention)
- Plastic bags (use to fill with ice for placing on sprains or bruises)
The Christ Hospital’s Urgent Care Center on Red Bank Expressway, is a great option for situations that require medical attention but do not require the extensive capabilities of an emergency room. “We are staffed by Christ Hospital physicians, all of whom are either internal medicine or emergency medicine specialists, so it’s a very high standard of care,” says Dr. Craven.
To find a primary care physician near you, call 877-904-4YOU. To learn more about The Christ Hospital’s new Urgent Care Center, visit www.TheChristHospital.com/UrgentCare.