Summer Safety Tip: Bee Stings and Bug Bites

One of the best parts about campus during the spring, besides shorter lines for coffee, is enjoying the weather outside. Whether you’re studying on one of the patio chairs at Dana Porter or taking a nap on the grass, it is important to know how to handle any bug bites or bee stings that might occur.

Bug Bites and Bee Stings

It is rare that an insect bite will result in a severe reaction that requires immediate assistance. Most bug bites can be treated at home or with a quick trip to the pharmacy.

Common bug bites or stings occur from wasps, bees, mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, ticks or bedbugs.

What are the common symptoms of bug bites or bee stings?

Most bee stings and bug bites will result in the following symptoms at the site of the bite:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Minor swelling

Sometimes a mild allergic reaction can occur to the bite area as it becomes painful and swollen, however, this should pass within a week.

Will I get Lyme disease if I get bitten by a tick?

According to Public Health Ontario, “Lyme disease is an infection transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. In Ontario, Lyme disease is only transmitted through the blacklegged tick.” Public Health Ontario produces a map (PDF) each year of risk areas for Lyme disease in Ontario. Public Health Ontario notes that “Early symptoms of Lyme disease may include; fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue and an expanding red rash.”

The chances of getting Lyme disease from a tick bite depends on the type of tick and how long it was attached. Only blacklegged ticks transmit bacteria that causes Lyme disease. These ticks can only do so if they are attached for more than 24 hours, which is why it is important to remove the tick immediately.

What steps to take if I have been bitten?

visual for steps to take after a bug bite or bee sting

  • If there is a visible stinger left at the site, remove it using a flat edged object
  • Wash the affected area with soap and water
  • Apply a cold compress to the swollen area for 10 minutes at a time
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching
  • Try not to scratch the affected area as this will cause more irritation
  • If you’re in pain or swollen take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)

When do I seek medical care?

  • Bug bite or bee sting is near your eye or your mouth
  • Symptoms are not improving after a couple of days
  • Affected site shows signs of infection such as oozing pus

When do I seek emergency care?

In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a bug bite or bee sting can occur which requires emergency care. The following symptoms indicate the need for immediate assistance:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Swollen mouth or face
  • Tightness in chest

How can I prevent bug bites and bee stings?

  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin or clothing 
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas
  • Wear shoes when outdoors
  • Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants
  • Don’t leave food and drinks uncovered when outdoors
  • Avoid very bright colours or strong smelling perfumes which attract bees
  • When encountering bees or wasps remain calm and back away instead of waving arms around – they will sting if they feel threatened

You should always come in to Health Services and book an appointment to see a health care professional if you feel your symptoms are worsening or if something doesn’t feel right about your bug bite/sting. You can book an appointment by calling 519-888-4096 or drop-in to make an appointment in person.

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