A “local reaction” is generally characterised by a combination or all of the following symptoms:
- a wheal surrounding the puncture.
However, the most important feature in the identification of the local reaction is that it is local- in other words within a 10 cm (that’s 4 inches!) radius of the injection point. This is because the only effect on the body has been the venom which normally only travels that far and causes the tissues to react that far away. If you have reactions further away then there is the real possibility that you may be allergic.
A local reaction offers little risk of life being threatened at all, unless the mouth or the throat is affected so that breathing is obstructed by the swelling. Put simply, in the great majority of cases the stung area hurts a lot for a while but then the pain and sting starts to fade.
The local nature of the reaction is simply the body’s response to introduction of venom into the system: the body liberates fluid around the wound to flush out the venom thus causing the reactions of swelling and redness. There is no need to panic because a reaction is a good thing – it may hurt a lot but your body is fighting the venom and winning!
Within a day the sting should stop hurting – if it carries on then provided it doesn’t get any worse then it is best treated with a cold compress and corticosteriod cream. Anti-histamine tablets or cream can help reduce the itching.
If it starts to get worse then it is almost certainly becoming infected and some people (and especially children) are particularly prone to infections arising from insect stings and bites. For most people, the wound starts to become more itchy, hotter and the skin becomes inflamed spreading away from the sting site. Whilst for many the body should be able to fight the infection, this can lead to complications like cellulitis. Accordingly for children and those who have a weaker disposition an early visit to the doctor for antibiotics is highly recommended.