Arkansas Pharmaceutical Association: How to combat insect allergies during the summer

Arkansas Today

Summer is just heating up and many Arkansans will be getting out and about to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether it’s family vacations, Boy Scout or Girl Scout trips, or just that last minute lake trip, getting outside means not only enjoying your time in the sun, but protecting yourself from bugs that can be minor pests or, in some cases, very dangerous. Dr. Ellen Jones from the Arkansas Pharmacists Association is here to talk about what to know about protecting yourself from annoying and perilous pests before you head outside.

Let’s talk about one of the worst parts of being outside. Bugs! Bugs can be quite the nuisance and ruin a fun afternoon.

What can we do to keep them out of the picture?

There are a few things to do to control your exposure to insects while you’re outside. The first one is pretty obvious – wear long sleeves and pants. Obviously, the less skin you have exposed, the less chance you’ll get bitten or stung by an insect. However, summer is here, and the temperatures are rising right now so it’s not always sensible to wear long sleeves which means you’ll need to use a good insect spray.

It’s important to look for insect repellants that contain DEET with a concentration below 50%. DEET is safe to use on adults, children and infants older than 2 months, but stick with a concentration lower than 30% for infants. Products that have less than a 10% concentration may only last an hour or two, so it’s important to reapply or choose a higher concentration. It’s also important to make sure that you check for ticks, especially if you’ve been out in high grass or wooded areas. Consult your pharmacist for any questions about staying safe outdoors this summer. Also, when applying bug spray to toddlers or young children, avoid spraying it on their hands because they may touch their mouth or their eyes more frequently.

Treating your clothes with buy spray can also keep insects away. Just spray on your clothes as you would onto your skin. If you’re going to be outside, you could also use things like citronella candles and products that are meant to keep insects away from larger areas. Often times you can find these products at your local pharmacy.

Some insects are just a pain in the neck, but some could literally cause a lot of pain and be very dangerous. What can we do about those?

Yes, there are some insects that can cause major allergic reactions such as bees, wasps, and fire ants. Usually, if you’re not allergic and you’re stung by an insect, you’ll experience intense, burning pain, followed by redness and a small area of swelling, which usually eases and goes away within a few hours. If you’re bitten, saliva from the insect can cause a skin reaction such as irritation or a small itchy bump. However, if you’re allergic, you’ll begin to experience itchy skin in many parts of the body, followed by an itchy blotchy rash that can appear anywhere on the body, swelling of your face which may extend to the lips, tongue, throat and upper airway, abdominal cramps, a sick feeling, and dilation of the blood vessels, causing redness of the skin, a fast heart rate, and low blood pressure.

So what happens if you’ve been stung and you are allergic? What should you do?

There are two kinds of reactions that can occur, there’s a local reaction which is when it basically stays close to the site of the sting and usually goes away in a few hours. In this case, take an antihistamine from your local pharmacy, use a cold compress and take ibuprofen to ease pain, and see a doctor if the swelling persists. If it’s a generalized allergic reaction, like the one we talked about earlier, those are the scary ones where your face can swell and your airway can begin to restrict. First, you or someone with you should call an ambulance immediately. If you know you have a severe allergy to an insect or even to food or some other allergen, you should always have an Epi-pen nearby or with you.

To use an Epi-pen, you want to hold it like this (grasped with a closed fist around the middle of the pen) Remove the blue cap from the top of the pen, and push the orange side firmly into the person’s thigh. You’ll hear a click once the needle has entered the thigh. Hold it there for several seconds, and then remove the pen. Next, you’ll want to massage the area for about 10 seconds. You’ll still need to go to the hospital because there could be a secondary attack. About 20% of anaphylaxis episodes are followed by what’s called biphasic anaphylaxis, so it’s important to make sure the person gets the proper medical attention. So even if the person

says that they are feeling better and don’t need any more medical attention, make sure he or she sees a doctor immediately.

One more thing on the subject of Epi-pens, if you or someone you know has a severe allergy and might have to use an Epi-pen one day, take a look at it, familiarize yourself with it, and know how to use it before you actually have to. There is some serious danger when it comes to using an Epi-pen incorrectly. You never want to place any part of your hand over either end of the pen, sometimes a person may put their thumb on the top because they think it gives them better control. This can be very dangerous because if you are holding the pen upside down and don’t realize it, you could get an injection into the tip of your thumb, which could result in having to amputate your thumb or worse. So always make sure you’re holding the pen with a closed fist around the middle of the device.

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