- Kelita Smith, Pharmacist Manager, Paget Pharmacy
Q: Can you tell us a bit about summer bites and stings?
A: At this time of year, hundreds of people suffer from bites and stings of some sort. Symptoms from an insect bite are the result of the injection of toxins or other substances into the skin which triggers an allergic (immune) reaction. The severity of the reaction depends on the person’s sensitivity to the insect toxins.
AVOID GETTING BITTEN
Insect repellents work well for biting insects, like mosquitos and ticks, but not against stinging insects like bees and wasps. The most effective repellent available is DEET (diethyl-metatoluamide) available in various different forms such as sprays, roll-ons, gels and lotions. Brands include: Autan (25% DEET), OFF! (15% DEET) and also Jungle formula which is a natural insect repellant containing no DEET. (Remember to ensure the product you are buying is appropriate for the person using it).
Bees, wasps and ants are attracted to sweet smells. Cutting down on hair sprays, perfumes and scented lotions and staying clear of garbage at picnic areas is advisable to help prevent attracting insects.
The best way to avoid mosquito bites is to use a repellent on every inch of exposed skin. When the sun goes down, cover as much of the skin as possible with clothing especially around the ankles, wrists and neck. Burning citronella candles while seated outside also helps as an adjunct to topical application of a repellent.
Q: What are your recommendations if someone is bitten or stung?
A: If bitten or stung, simply follow these steps to ease irritation fast:
- Remove the sting by carefully scraping the skin with a blunt edged object such as a credit card or a dull knife carefully to avoid breaking the sac.
- Do not squeeze or scratch the area.
- Use a sting or bite relief product such as a hydrocortisone cream or anti-histamine cream like Benadryl or Anthisan. If you have a severe reaction, oral antihistamines such as Clarityn, Piriton or Benadryl will also help. Please check with your Pharmacist as to which product is suitable for you.
- Pain can be controlled with analgesics like Tylenol or Advil.
- If symptoms such as quick and severe swelling, difficulty breathing, headaches or nausea present -seek medical attention immediately.
Q: Do most people have the same reaction to bites and stings?
A: Some people have a severe allergic reaction to stings known as anaphylactic shock. The symptoms include quick and severe swelling, difficulty breathing, headaches or nausea. Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms after being stung must seek medical attention immediately.
Q: Do you have any advice on jellyfish or Portuguese Man-Of-War stings?
A: Care is needed when swimming to avoid being stung by the tentacles. The symptoms include stinging, burning and redness.
Treat the person affected out of the water.
- Use a razor blade, credit card or shell to remove any nematocysts (small poisonous sacs) that are stuck to the skin. It may help to apply a small amount of shaving cream to the affected area first.
- Rinse the area liberally with salt water – not fresh water.
- Soak the area in hot water to ease the pain.
- Take an antihistamine tablet (if indicated) or apply a topical steroid like 1% hydrocortisone cream and take pain relieving medications.
- Note vinegar is no longer recommended for treating jellyfish stings, because it may make things worse, by activating unfired stinging cells.
- Dial 911 if there are severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, or if a large / sensitive area of the body such as the face or genitals has been stung.
Q: Do you have any advice with regards to “sea lice” in Bermuda:
A: What we call “sea lice” is actually the larvae of jellyfish. These almost invisible larvae can get caught between the bathing suit and skin, and when this happens it can cause a fine red rash and itching. This is treated by removing the bathing suit and washing the area with water. A topical antihistamine or hydrocortisone cream will help with the rash. Remember to check with your pharmacist to make sure these products are safe for you.
Q: Do you have any advice regarding summer skin care?
A: The truth is, there is no such thing as a healthy tan: **WHO:http://www.who.int/uv/faq/uvhealtfac/en/index2.html
The dangers of exposing skin to UV rays are well reported to include more than the discomfort of burning. UV rays also cause up to 90% of visible skin ageing and wrinkles and can cause different kinds of skin cancer.
SPF – or Sun Protection Factor – is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. Here's how it works: If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer – about five hours.
No sunscreen can block all UV rays. (**http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/sunscreens-explained)
Sunscreen is safe for use on babies 6 months or older. Younger babies should use other forms of sun protection.
- For babies 6 months or older. If your baby is 6 months or older, use sunscreen liberally (SPF50+). Also, avoid exposing your baby to the sun during peak hours – generally 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – and dress your baby in protective clothing, a hat with a brim and sunglasses.
- For babies younger than 6 months. If your baby is younger than 6 months, keep him or her out of direct sunlight. Protect your baby from sun exposure by dressing him or her in protective clothing, a hat with a brim and sunglasses.
American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours – or more often if one is spending time in the water or perspiring.
To avoid irritating your baby's skin and eyes, consider using a sunscreen that contains only inorganic filters, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Avoid using products that combine sunscreen and the insect repellent DEET, since sunscreen must be regularly reapplied and insect repellent typically doesn't need to be reapplied as frequently.
Remember, just a few serious sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer later in life. Taking these simple steps can go a long way towards protecting you from the risks of sun exposure.
Q: Does it matter which type of sunscreen is chosen?
A: Sunscreens come in many different formulations and we have a wide variety to choose from at The Phoenix Stores. Care should be taken to pick the right product for you. There are products available for sensitive skin and waterproof products for long days in the water. The Phoenix Stores also carry spray sunscreens for easy application, sticks and roll ons for tender areas like nose and lips.
Ensure to choose broad spectrum protection i.e. a sunscreen with at least 3 active ingredients, thus protecting against both UVA and UVB rays. (Consult the pharmacist for further information).
Q: How else can you protect yourself from the Sun?
A: There are many other measures one should take in addition to applying sunscreen such as:
- Slip On A Shirt – If outdoors between 11am and 3pm, be sure to cover up with cool clothing.
- Slop On Sunscreen – Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors. And reapply every one to two hours or after swimming in the sea or pool.
- Slap On A Hat – Protect the head by wearing a hat.
- Seek Shade – Stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day (10am – 3pm).
- Slide on Sunglasses – Protect the eyes from damaging UV rays
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. One suggestion is to incorporate an oral rehydration sachet (Dioralyte) or effervescent tablet (Nunn) into your water. Such oral rehydration therapy helps replenish the body’s supply of electrolytes which is essential to overall wellbeing and vitality.
For trusted advice, please contact your nearest pharmacist at The Phoenix Stores – they’re always ready to answer any questions or concerns pertaining to health and wellness.