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Stink Bugs Are Not Harmless — Here’s How To Stop a Chemical Burn and Dispose of the Smelly Bug

Don't bug out, but they should not be underestimated.


Have you noticed an uptick in stink bugs around your home? Unfortunately, it’s not surprising; these prehistoric-looking insects are active from March through September, though they often hang around in the winter months, too (just our luck). They’re present throughout the US, though they’re most often found in the mid-Atlantic region. While stink bugs seem mild and dim-witted — nothing more than an annoyance — they actually can cause some harm. As it turns out, stink bug spray may even lead to a chemical burn.

How Stink Bugs Cause Chemical Burns

Instagram user Katie Lee raised awareness with a video of her two-year-old daughter, Lillie, who got burned by stink bug liquid. “The other night, I got Lillie out of a bath and was brushing her wet hair. She started screaming hysterically and I had no idea why until I smelled that familiar stank,” the mom wrote in the caption. “There was a stink bug. [It] either crawled into her hair or her brush and I didn’t see it. She kept yelling, ‘he bit me!’ And at the time I was reassuring her that they don’t bite. We re-showered her (because she SMELLED) and after she got out I noticed a large red burn on her neck.”

Lee said she turned to the internet for answers, and found out that the liquid stink bugs emit when they feel threatened can cause a chemical burn, especially if it is sprayed directly onto skin rather than spread in the air.

How To Stop the Chemical Burn

“The best course of action is antibiotic ointment and watching for infection, so that’s really all we can do,” Lee added in her Instagram post. “But it looks SO painful and I feel horrible for her. Moral of our story: If you see one on your children, remove it quickly and carefully to spare them this pain.”

Indeed, expert sources agree that you should clean the area and apply antibiotic ointment if you develop a chemical burn from stink bug liquid. Reactions that seem more severe than redness and a little discoloration (you may be allergic) may warrant a trip to the doctor’s office. If the spray gets in your eyes, flush your eyes immediately with lukewarm tap water for 20 minutes and see a medical professional as quickly as possible. You may need a prescription-strength topical antibiotic or steroid to reduce inflammation.

Related: The Best DIY Ant Killers That Really Work, According to Pest Pros 

How To Dispose of Stink Bugs Without Releasing the Smell

If you see a stink bug flying around your room and you want to get rid of it, it’s probably best not to squish it. That foul smell might fill the air faster than you can dispose of the bug. Vacuuming the insect works if your vacuum is truly airtight and doesn’t release smells — but if it does, you might want to capture the bug in a glass and release it outside instead (birds, bats, spiders, and even some insects will eat them). Or, catch it and drop it in the toilet. Sayonara, stink bug!

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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