Last week the Great NEWS blog shared how 10 Daily Decisions Determine Your Destiny and this week is devoted to why Bug Bites are Bad News. While traveling in Costa Rica three weeks ago I was bitten by a water beetle and had a severe allergic reaction which caused a lot of pain, swelling and tissue damage. Now that my hand is almost back to normal it is imperative for me to write about this humbling experience to help advise and warn others of the serious risks and simple treatments for bug bites and insect stings. This post is long and important because your life and limb could be at risk.  Bug Bites are Bad News and being prepared can be the difference between a major medical emergency and minor nuisance.

After being bitten and several days of aches, fever, pain and swelling an epiphany occurred regarding my bad bug bite and the importance of being prepared and being proactive with rapid and effective first aid treatment. Most people are unaware, uneducated and unprepared for the many hazards and health risks from bacteria, bug bites, fungus, insect stings, pathogens, parasites and poison plants they may encounter.

This bug bite was a very humbling experience for me because I know and write about being prepared and trained for first aid, health and well being. In spite of having my first aid kit nearby and knowing the importance of holistic health treatment I failed to take prompt action and this decision ruined part of my trip and I have suffered the consequences for three weeks so far and the hand is still painful, peeling, pink and puffy.

While on my trip to Panama two weeks later my hand was still painful, red and tender. Then to top things off I was bitten by numerous chiggers while walking in tall grass on Azuero peninsula so I got another reminder to write this blog post before writing about life lessons learned in Panama.

Most people today have very little awareness of the hazards of bug bites and insect stings let alone the preparation or training for dealing with such a situation. During my travels and conversations with back packers or business and vacation travelers most of then are unaware, uninformed and unprepared for the local insect and plant problems that may affect them. Most people spend the majority of their time planning and researching their trip destination and itinerary versus packing and preparing a first aid kit. The logistics such as airline, bus, car, hotel or train reservations consume most of their energy and time while often leaving their health and well being to lady luck.

While it may seem overly dramatic, being prepared to deal with bugs, insects, parasites, pathogens and spiders wherever in the world you live or travel may be one of the most important decisions of your life. You never know when you or a family member or friend could suffer a serious bug bite or insect sting or pick up a parasite that puts your health or life at risk. Several of my family and friends have had expensive and painful conditions resulting from bug bites and insect stings that may have been avoided with proper and timely treatment soon after the incident. We must avoid being totally dependent on others to take care of us and treat our health conditions and must become our own “first responder”.

Bad Bug Bite in Costa Rica:

While sitting in a chlorinated fresh water pool at the condominium I noticed a small shiny black bug the shape and size of a lady bug swimming under water several feet away. Enjoying the cool water on a hot day and talking with family distracted me from observing the bug for a while. Several minutes later their was a sharp pain from the bug bite on my right hand between my thumb and first finger and immediately my left hand instinctively crushed the bug and used pool water to wash it off.

While the pain was intense it only lasted for a few seconds so it did not seem like a big deal and we joked and laughed about tiny bug bites to big people and the nuisance they can cause. We remained in the pool for a while longer (1st mistake) then got showered (without treating 2nd mistake) to go to town for dinner (Farmacia was closed). Then we returned to the condo to get ready for bed (3rd mistake) and since nothing seemed painful or unusual with the bite it went untreated (4th mistake) before going to sleep. Going to sleep without checking yourself and treating your skin for bug bites, chiggers, cuts, fleas, ticks or scrapes is an open invitation for trouble.

At 3:30 in the morning I woke up with a fiery hot and swollen hand with a throbbing pain shooting up my arm. Finally my instincts kicked into high gear and I went down stairs to get my calcium bentonite clay and covered the bite and surrounding area to draw out the poison. Immediately it felt a bit better so I drank some water and went back to bed. (5th mistake was not applying the tea tree oil in my kit and then applying the clay and reapplying a second coating)

The next morning after breakfast we went to a local Farmacia to inquire about aloe vera or other local suggestions or treatments. It did not have aloe and the pharmacist was not familiar with that type of bug bite so she recommended a topical antibiotic and antihistamine. Since it was a bug bite and not an infection I passed on the antibiotic and we went back to the condo for more clay and reluctantly took part of an antihistamine. I felt like it would be better soon so I just soaked it in salt water at the beach and put more clay on it.

Unfortunately the delay in a cleansing and disinfecting treatment and application of clay allowed the poison to damage the skin and tissue underneath causing inflammation, intense pain and swelling. Keeping the hand elevated helped to reduce the swelling and pain some but it was miserable for me the last two days and traveling home was very uncomfortable. Unfortunately after returning home each day the hand kept getting worse and stayed discolored, swollen and throbbing and the pain was fairly intense.

Researching the internet provided information on many biting beetles and “toe biters” that live in lakes, rivers, streams and swimming pools in North and Central America yet no real suggestions were offered for treatment. More researching only lead to many more articles and sites on many varieties of bug bites, stinging insects and transmitted diseases caused by bacteria, pathogens, parasites and virus which can result from biting bugs. Bug bites cause many deaths and significant disease around the world every year so this should be an important subject to be taught to our children and students as part of their health and well being education at home and at school.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and much more can be done to maximize prevention and provide immediate first aid treatment to minimize the harmful consequences. When was the last time you stopped to consider that bug bites are causing the death of over half a million people each year according to the World Health Organization (WHO)?

My mind kept thinking it would improve any day yet using aloe, baking soda, clay, coconut oil, lavender essential oil and some supplements provided minimal relief since too much time had elapsed for these treatments to provide anything other than some help to minimize more damage and aid in the healing process. Five days later I was even more achy, feverish, tired and weak and slept for almost twenty hours too delirious, disoriented and weak to even drive myself to the doctor. Finally convinced and ready to go to the doctor on the sixth day things stopped getting worse and started improving slightly.

OMG what a living nightmare to deal with. During the sixth night of fever an epiphany occurred to share this story with as many people as possible to help them be educated and focused towards being prepared, prevention and principles of first aid. It would be fairly easy to write a book with all the information gathered and life lessons learned regarding this and other biting bugs that have been endured such as having tick fever and suffering for several weeks during college.

Three weeks after the bug bite the hand is much better now even though a significant area of skin peeled off and the area is still discolored and very tender to temperature and touch. It may take several more weeks before the hand is fully back to normal appearance and sensation.

Bug Bite First Aid Kit and Treatment:

First capture or kill the biting bug or stinging insect and keep for identification purposes if possible.

Picture of ants walking on the ground

Ants can give a painful sting. Fire ants are particularly painful and often fester into a small boil.

Examine bite or sting site to determine if any barb is still embedded and remove it.

Decide that any bug bite or insect sting can be a serious healthy risk and be smart by deciding to take immediate and beneficial action to clean, neutralize and treat the bug bite to minimize the risk of infection and reduce tissue damage.

Wash the bite or sting area with clean water and natural soap such as Dr. Bronners.

Baking soda, Epsom salt or Sea salt mixed with water or ocean water can also be used to clean the site.

If you do not have clean water and soap available use alcohol (vodka), hydrogen peroxide, iodine, rubbing alcohol swabs or witch hazel.

Additional substances to cleanse and disinfect the bug bit include: clove oil, eucalyptus oil, neem oil, oregano oil, raw garlic, Tea tree oil, myrrh oil, frankincense oil.

You can also twist a lemon, lime or orange peel to extract the essential oils onto the bug bite.

After cleaning the bug bite site and treating with a disinfectant it is important to use calcium bentonite clay as soon as possible to help draw out and neutralize as much of the poison, secretions, toxin or venom as possible.

If some cold water, cold pack or ice is available it may also help reduce the swelling while you are treating the bite site.

After the clay has dried and been on for 30 minutes to 1 hour wash it off and reapply one of the listed cleansing compounds for 3 to 5 minutes then reapply the clay gel.

If you have an antihistamine dissolve it in a small amount of water and soak the bug bite or sting site to reduce inflammation. Some people may want to take one internally.

Continue the cleaning process and clay at least three times to maximize therapeutic benefits and minimize risk of disease and infection.

Apply holistic health, natural remedies or seek medical treatment as soon after bug bite or insect sting as possible for best results. You can also use coconut oil and essential oils for several days following bug bites and insect stings to help the skin and tissue heal more rapidly.

Picture of a black widow spider which is quite painful and can cause a severe reaction in some people.

A black widow spider with a red hour glass on the abdomen.

When outdoors where bugs are known to be a nuisance consider wearing a natural bug repellent as well as a hat, long pants, long sleeves, shoes and socks instead of flip flops, shorts, and t-shirts while in higher risk areas. (Walking in tall grass in Costa Rica resulted in numerous cuts and scrapes to my hands but the rest of me was more protected. However chiggers bit me and caused reactions because I failed to take a shower with soap that night and apply tea tree oil till the next morning. This is another sign that obviously my mind was still being affected by the previous bug bite to my hand and not thinking clearly.)

Every bug bite and insect sting should be considered a potential serious risk to life and limb. A friend of mine was hiking in Spain and received a blister or bug bite that became infected with an antibiotic resistant flesh eating bacteria which caused a life threatening condition. For several days the doctors talked about amputating her foot to save her life. Finally they managed to remove enough flesh to save her foot but then needed plastic surgery to graft skin from her thigh to cover her foot.

Besides being a totally frightening experience and costing many tens of thousands of Euros the stress and trauma she endured plus her family and friends is a life lesson in how a simple situation can escalate into a life threatening trauma. Who knows if timely first aid may have prevented the whole thing from developing into a life threatening situation. Can you afford to risk your life and limb as well as tens of thousands of dollars because of a bug bite or insect sting?

Maybe you still think this is just an unusual fluke and are still not convince that this subject is worthy of your time to plan, prepare and practice first aid. Think again.

Diseases Caused By Biting Bugs:

  • Babesiosis
  • Chagas disease
  • Dengue fever
  • Encephalitis
  • Leishmaniasis
  • Lyme disease
  • Malaria
  • Plague
  • Rocky Mountain tick fever
  • Sleeping sickness
  • Typhus
  • West Nile disease
  • Yellow fever
Mosquito feeding on a human.

Only the female mosquito feeds on blood to lay her eggs.

This does not include the numerous types of infections that result after bug bites due to contamination from the insect itself or scratching the bite site. At a minimum every person should have several first aid kits at home and for travel with alcohol swabs, baking soda, band-aids, calcium bentonite clay, clove oil, colloidal silver, gauze, gloves, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, tea tree oil, neem oil, oregano oil, scissors, sling, tape, topical antihistamine, tweezers, vitamin c tablets and witch hazel. Be sure to have some basic first aid books and instructions available and receive training and practice first aid.

Being prepared with good first aid kits and first aid training is great insurance and a great investment for your long term health and well being. Your first line of prevention and protection from the potential problems created by bug bites and insect stings as well as parasites, pathogens and poison plants is you. Your second line of defense is having using a well stocked first aid kit and knowing how to use it.  Remember that biting bugs, spiders and stinging insects live throughout the world and can cause you a financial fortune, loss of life or limb and  powerful pain when not dealt with sensibly and seriously.

Last week the Great NEWS blog shared how 10 Daily Decisions Determine Your Destiny and this week the Great NEWS blog post shared why Bug Bites are Bad News. It is up to you to learn to be prepared to deal with bugs, insects, parasites, pathogens and spiders wherever in the world you live or travel. It could one day be the most important decision of your life. When you or a family member or friend suffers a bug bite or insect sting treat it as a serious risk to your health and life. You must become your own “first responder” and with this Great NEWS blog post on why Bug Bites are Bad News you have a wealth of helpful information and first aid strategies and suggestions.

Mastery Action Plan

Research the insects, plants and spiders where you live or plan to travel. Find great first aid books, resources, trainings and websites to help you prepare in advance. Create a digital and printed check list of first aid procedures and products to use for various conditions you may encounter. These documents and first aid kit must be easily accessible at all times. Review this post and buy the products needed to create your first aid kits for home and travel. Review and revise the procedures and products to keep current and update your first aid kit as needed.

Call to Action

What comments, commitments or questions do you have regarding bug bites and stinging insects first aid suggestions?

Next week the Great NEWS blog will share: Paradise in Panama