Bug bites

What are bug bites?

People often confuse bug bites with stings. A bite from the insect’s mouth often happens when an insect is defending itself or feeding. A sting happens when an insect defends itself or its home by injecting venom into the skin through a stinger.

Most bug bites and stings cause red, swollen skin irritation with pain, itching, or burning. Bug bites may take a while to appear while stings typically cause more immediate pain. Some people are allergic to insect venom and may suffer severe or possibly life-threatening reactions when stung.

What are the symptoms of a bug bite?

Most bug bites cause minor discomfort and irritation. People with severe allergic reactions should contact a physician. The following symptoms are most common:

Minor reactions:

  • Minor skin irritation with swelling in a small area
  • Redness, itching and irritation at the site of the bite
  • Possible numbness or tingling

Severe reactions:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Symptoms of a minor reaction increase to affect larger areas or other parts of the body
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Anaphylaxis – this is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical attention 

Anyone experiencing one or more of these symptoms should seek treatment from a physician to prevent the infection from spreading.

How are bug bites prevented?

Bug bites can cause more than discomfort. They can also spread diseases which come with their own risks. Take these steps to reduce your exposure to bug bites:

  • Use insect repellent approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Cover exposed skin with long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Take preventative steps to control insects inside and outside of your home.
  • Control ticks, fleas, and other insects on pets.
  • Find and remove ticks from family members and pets on a daily basis.

How are bug bites treated?

Get immediate medical attention if a bug bite causes a severe reaction. Severe reactions often require prescription medication or treatment by a physician. If the bite is not serious, ease the discomfort with these basic remedies:

  • Clean the bite with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold compress.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Take over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching.
  • Take an antihistamine to help with swelling and itching.
  •  Apply calamine lotion.
  • For stings, scrape the area with a credit card to remove the stinger. Do not pinch the stinger with tweezers or your finger, as that can potentially inject more venom.

If you wish to see one of our Physicians about an bug bite, you can come into any Patient First center from 8 a.m. to 8 pm, any day of the week – no appointment is needed.