Summer in Britain is as much about dodging stings and bites from insects as it is soaking up the sun. For most of us this amounts to nothing more than a minor irritation, but for a marginal amount of people each year, it can be fatal.
So what are the main creepy-crawly threats and what’s the best way to treat bites or stings?
Wasps are widely regarded as public enemy number one- they cause more allergic reactions than anything else in the UK.
To avoid being stung stay still and don't swat them, wearing white or neutral colours can deter wasps. Be vigilant and check for wasps' nest in and around your home, if you spot any be sure to have them removed by a pest control company.
• Remove the Sting
Royal Pharmaceutical Society spokesman and community pharmacist Sid Dajani says: ‘use tweezers if you can, rather than your fingers, and don’t squeeze the sac as this may release more of the venom into the system.'
• Cool the wound
‘Run the wound under cold water, or keep reapplying a flannel soaked in cold water for ten to 20 minutes’, advises Mr Dajani, ‘this dampens down any local reaction because your body will want to rush blood to the area, which will only make it worse. Don’t use ice as it could burn the skin.’
• Take medication
Painkillers can ease soreness and hydrocortisone cream can help reduce inflammation in adults but is not suitable for children. Mr Dajani advises the use of an antihistamine cream for younger children, symptoms will subside by the end of the day.
Bee stings are similar to wasps but it’s a common myth that they all die once they’ve struck. Whilst Honey bees have a barbed sting that remains in the skin, bumble bees can sting time and again.
Stings are painful but unlikely to cause serious damage, unless you have an allergy to them. Rest assured most people who are allergic do not have a serious reaction to their first sting.
• Remove the sting
Use the same technique as for wasp stings. If you don’t have tweezers, carefully use a clean needle, or try scraping it out with something that has a hard edge- make sure it is clean first.
• Check for infection
If it becomes tender, pustular and you develop flu-like symptoms, it may be an infection and your GP might prescribe a short course of antibiotics.
• Be aware of allergic symptoms
If you develop any swelling, breathing difficulties, itching, or have trouble swallowing, get someone to call 999 straight away. It could be a rare but potentially very serious reaction known as anaphylactic shock. Seek out urgent medical attention. Treatments vary with the severity of the reaction and range from an adrenaline injection, antihistamines, oxygen or an intravenous drip directly into a vein.
These are large, hairy flies which can give an extremely painful bite and are mostly a problem on warm, sunny days. They bite rather than pierce the skin leaving lesions that can take longer to heal than other insect bites, with a risk of infection.
As well as around stables, you’re most likely to find them near lakes, streams and rivers; golf courses; water parks; amusement parks; cattle farms and long, damp grass.
‘Horsefly bites are the nastiest of them all and the most painful,’ says Sid Dajani, ‘if they do puff up into blisters, whatever you do don’t pop them. That increases the risk of infection. Instead, cover them up and let them heal, while using insect repellent to keep others at bay.'