What is included in prehospital care for insect bites?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: Boyd (Bo) D Burns, DO, FACEP, FAAEM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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For a large local reaction, ice packs may minimize swelling. Apply ice for no more than 15 minutes at a time using a cloth barrier between ice and skin to prevent direct thermal injury to the skin.

Epinephrine is the mainstay of prehospital treatment of a systemic reaction; the route of administration (subcutaneous, intramuscular, intravenous [IV], endotracheal) depends on the patient's condition and the expertise of the prehospital provider. Systemic antihistamines and corticosteroids, if available, help manage systemic reactions. Many patients who are allergic to stings carry commercially available bee sting kits containing an autoinjector of epinephrine. Refer to Hymenoptera Stings.

Topical antihistamines should not be applied over large surface areas, and they should not be used concurrently with systemic H1 antihistamines. Systemic anticholinergic toxicity may result from misuse of these medications.

Use of H2-blocking drugs (usually used to reduce gastric acid secretion) may be used concurrently with H1-blocking antihistamines.

In many patients, transport to a hospital is not necessary. Those requiring transport include patients who develop signs or symptoms of a systemic response or individuals with a history of insect-related anaphylaxis. A phone call to the regional poison center may save a costly visit to the ED.

Regarding stings, refer to Hymenoptera Stings for complete information; however, note that if the bee stinger is present in the wound, it should be removed. Although conventional teaching suggested scraping the stinger out to avoid squeezing remaining venom from the retained venom gland into the victim, involuntary muscle contraction of the gland continues after evisceration and the venom contents are quickly exhausted. Immediate removal is the important principle and the method of removal is irrelevant.

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