Bug Bites & Stings: Identification, Treatment and Risks
As the weather warms, the grass and trees get greener, the flowers emerge, and… the bugs come back out. While not every insect poses a physical threat, there are many that you may encounter that do, so it is important to keep yourself protected and know what to do if you have been bitten or stung.
For the most part, a bug bite results in a harmless – albeit itchy, at times – red welt that heals quickly on its own or with minimal treatment at home, even if you never saw the offender. However, some can result in more severe reactions, whether a person is allergic to the venom or has gotten a disease from the bite. Because many bugs may bite without you even seeing it happen, it is important to pay attention to particular symptoms you experience in order to receive proper treatment as necessary.
Here are the most common bugs and their bite symptoms:
- Bedbugs: These are most common in close living quarters with high turnover, such as hotels and apartments, but are easily transferred from one place to the next. Their bites are small and will typically leave a red, itchy mark, sometimes with serious allergic reaction.
- Bees: This common garden visitor generally won’t sting unless they are threatened, but if they do, it results in a red bump with white around it. Many times, the stinger will remain in the skin, so be sure to remove it quickly for proper healing. Be alert for any symptoms of a stronger allergic reaction, or reaction to multiple stings, as emergency treatment from medical staff is required.
- Fleas: If you have pets at home that go outside, you could be at risk for fleas. While they prefer dogs and cats, it is possible for them to bite humans, which would leave itchy welts on the skin, usually around the ankles and legs, waist, armpits, or bends of the elbows and knees.
- Mosquitos: The common nuisance is all over the world that typically bite without you knowing until an itchy welt appears. The bite is usually harmless and will disappear after a few days, but can cause allergic reactions in rare cases. If possible, use insect repellent to keep them from biting as they can spread disease, such as the Zika virus.
- Spiders: Most spider bites are harmless, with minimal swelling and pain. However, some spiders like the black widow and brown recluse can cause dangerous reactions that require emergency care. If you see the spider that bit you and aren’t sure of its danger level, try to bring the spider with you for proper identification.
- Ticks: These can be tough to spot and often bite without you knowing right away. Ticks are typically found in wooded areas, or areas with tall grasses. They will latch onto the skin, usually in areas that are warmer, such as the armpits and groin, and feed on blood. If they are not removed quickly or properly, they can spread disease, such as Lyme disease. Protect yourself by keeping your arms, legs, and head covered when outside, use insect repellent with DEET, and always check for ticks after spending time in grassy or wooded areas.
While preventing all bug bites is virtually impossible, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk and help prevent adverse reactions:
- Simply avoid insects when you see them.
- Avoid eating foods or wear fragrance that may attract bugs.
- If you know you are allergic to particular bites, take precaution to avoid the risk.
- Use insect repellent sprays or other devices when outdoors.
- Wear protective clothing and headwear.
If you have been bit and it seems to be getting worse, or you aren’t sure what may have bit you, visit us to ensure it is treated properly. If you begin having a serious reaction, such as anaphylaxis, or you see that you have been bit by a dangerous insect, go to the emergency room immediately for treatment.