Insect Bites and Stings | Insect Bites Treatment | How to Treat Insect Bites and Stings | 2018
How to Identify Insect Bites
There are a variety of insects in the world that bite and sting if they come near you. Chances are you will stumble across many of them in your life. Insects may bite or sting when provoked or distressed. While the initial contact may be painful, it's also often followed by an allergic reaction to venom deposited into your skin. Knowing how to identify them can help you figure out the best way to treat their symptoms, and watch out for more dangerous possibilities. Learn to accurately identify bug bites so you can quickly identify the appropriate response.
Identifying Common Insect Bites
Figure out where you were when bitten.Different insects live in different places, and there are certain circumstances where it is more likely to be bitten by each of them.
- If you were outdoors, and perhaps near a wooded area, you were probably bitten by a mosquito, tick, or spider.
- If you were near food or garbage, you may have been bitten by a fly, or stung by a bee or wasp.
- If you were indoors, sitting somewhere or playing with a pet, it may be fleas.
- In the United States, scorpions are only found in the South and Southwest, particularly Texas and Arizona. Scorpion stings are extremely painful, and most of the time they are easy to rule out.
- If you were bitten in the southeastern part of the United States by a fly-like creature whose sting feels like a mosquito bite, it may be a deer fly.
- If you were bitten in your bed while sleeping, it may be bedbugs.
- If you were bitten on the beach, particularly in the southeast, it may be sand fleas.
Look for a small, itchy, red mound.This is the most common visible symptom of an insect bite, and depending on other symptoms could be from a variety of insects.
- A single bite mark is probably from a mosquito or fly. You may notice a tiny bite mark in the center of the mound of a mosquito bite.
- Flea bites are a number of small, itchy mounds grouped together. You will probably find them in areas where your clothes fit tightly to your body, such as around your waist.
- Bedbug bites will be itchy red bumps, maybe with a blister, grouped in rows of two or three.
Look for swelling.Other types of bites or stings involve the swelling of the skin around the bite area.
- Fire ant bites will cause swelling (as much as 1/2 inch) and will fill with pus. They may blister over after a few days.
- Scorpion stings can cause swelling, as well as redness of the skin and pain or numbness in the area. Scorpion stings can be very dangerous, and they make most people very ill. Call emergency services or seek medical treatment right away if you suspect a scorpion sting.
Check for bee and wasp stings.Stings from these insects will cause an immediate sharp or burning pain and swelling. They will leave a red welt (similar to a mosquito bite), with a small white spot where the stinger broke the skin. There will probably also be some swelling in the area. In the case of bees, they will leave their stinger behind.
- If stung by a bee, remove the stinger. Stinging a person will kill a bee, as the stinger is pulled out of the bee's body. You don't want the stinger to stay there, so use a credit card to help you scrape the stinger out. Attempting to use tweezers may accidentally force the stinger farther into your skin.
- Other stinging insects, like hornets, wasps, mud dauber wasps and yellow jackets, do not leave their stinger. If you have been stung, and there is no stinger left, that is probably what stung you. These insects can sting multiple times in a row.
Look for ticks.Bites from ticks tend to be bright red, but painless, so if you are not looking, you may miss having one. It is likely that you will discover the bite with the tick still attached to you. Most tick bites are harmless, but many ticks carry dangerous diseases like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. You will want to be careful when discovering a tick bite.
- If the tick is attached to you, you will want to remove it as quickly as possible. Use a pair of tweezers to grab the tick near its head and pull — do not twist, as this can cause the head to pop off and remain attached to your skin. Don't leave any part of its head or body on you. When removing a tick, use tweezers, and not other items like petroleum jelly, matches, or nail polish remover.
- If you cannot get the head out, it is probably buried under your skin. If so, contact a doctor immediately, and they should be able to remove it.
- Keep an eye on the bite area. If you see a rash in a bull's-eye pattern (erythema migrans), this is a sign of Lyme disease. Go to a doctor immediately.
- You should always check yourself for ticks after being outdoors in a wooded area, or walking through tall grass. Ticks like warm, dark places, so check all over your body. They can be as small as the period on the end of this sentence, so you may want to use a magnifying glass.
- Tick paralysis is an uncommon ailment in which a female tick releases a neurotoxin, which causes temporary paralysis. It usually dissipates as soon as the tick is removed, and is most common in pets and children under 10.
Check for head lice.Head lice are usually found on the neck, scalp and behind the ears. Their bites will look like a rash on your head, and you will probably find the lice and their eggs (called nits) in your hair. If you have lice, you will need to wash your hair with non-prescription lice-killing shampoos, and wash any clothes and bedding that may have come into contact with them.
- If you are pregnant, do not use these lice-killing shampoos. Instead, talk to your doctor about the best ways to get rid of the lice.
- An overnight coconut oil mask can be a great alternative for women who can’t use chemical treatments.
Rule out serious spider bites.Spider bites are slightly different than insect bites, and should be treated differently. Look out for one or two small, two-fanged puncture wounds (a sign of a black widow spider bite,) or a bite that turns blue or purple and begins to turn into a deep, open sore (a sign of a brown recluse bite.) If you notice these signs, call your doctor. Other, less serious spider bites may resemble insect bites.
- Black widow spider bites may cause stabbing pain, but they can also be painless. Look for the telltale fang marks, tenderness and swelling at the bite site. Symptoms to look for include muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting and even seizures.
- The bite may become infected and swollen with pus.
Look for the insect.Most insect bites are painful, and you will notice them right away. If you feel yourself bitten, try to find the insect that bit you. Take a picture, or, if the insect is dead, collect the carcass. That can help you and your doctor identify what bit you, and what steps you should take next.
- If the insect is still alive, do not try to capture it. That is a good way to get bit or stung again.
- If the insect is dead, fold the insect in the piece of clear tape, taking care not to damage it, so you can show it to a professional.
Treating an Insect Bite
Clean the bite area with soap and water.This will help clean the bite and can prevent additional infection. It's best not to use other creams or medications on the bite area until it is clean.
Use anti-itch cream if the bite itches.Look for over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton.Don't scratch the bite, as that can cause it to become infected.
- Topical creams, gels, and lotions—particularly those containing pramoxine or benadryl—may help control itching.
Cut down swelling.Make a cool compress, a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice, and hold it over the swollen area. If possible, elevate the bite area to reduce blood flow.
Treat for papular urticaria.Crops of raised, itchy, red bumps may appear as a result of a hypersensitivity to insect bites. This usually occurs after bites with fleas, mosquitoes, and bedbugs. Treatment for urticaria include antihistamines and topical steroids.
- Do not scratch these pumps, as this can result in scarring or infection.
Treat for shock.Some insect bites can cause an allergic reaction, which can be very dangerous. The first signs of a serious reaction are often hives, rash, a swollen throat or tongue, and trouble breathing. This is an urgent medical emergency, so call 911 or go to the emergency room right away. Use an EpiPen if you have one, as allergic shock can be fatal.
Seek medical attention.In most cases, the effects like itching and swelling can go away quickly. If the symptoms persist, or get worse, you should look for a doctor, to make sure you are not suffering from a more serious reaction.
- If you think, or know, you have been stung by a scorpion, seek medical attention immediately.
Watch for symptoms of other diseases.Insect bites may not be dangerous by themselves, but many insects can carry diseases. Ticks can carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and mosquitoes may carry West Nile Virus and encephalitis and can transmit these serious diseases to humans. Keep an eye out for other symptoms like fever, body aches, and nausea. These are usually signs of a more serious condition.
QuestionI have four big red bites in a column. What kind of insect could it be?
Registered NurseRegistered NurseExpert AnswerThis bite pattern sounds like bed bug bites. I would see a doctor to confirm.Thanks!
QuestionI have two spots. Is it a spider bite?
Registered NurseRegistered NurseExpert AnswerSpiders do have two venom-injecting fangs and typically bite with both at the same time.However, in any spider smaller than a tarantula, the entry points of the two fangs will be so close together that there is little, if any, visible separation. Also, the fangs are so slender and sharp that the actual entry points are all but invisible. When you have a "bite" with two separated marks, it is either caused by a bloodsucking insect that has bitten twice (a common occurrence), or is a double skin eruption arising from one disease condition or arthropod bite, also a common occurrence.Thanks!
QuestionAfter power washing a cedar fence and mulching my yard I have welt like bites on stomach and legs. Any idea what it could be?
Registered NurseRegistered NurseExpert AnswerAnytime a bug bite turns into a welt, it could be an allergic reaction. Please consult your physician for an examination.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I see two small bites next to each other, but they're not tiny and don't look like fangs?
Registered NurseRegistered NurseExpert AnswerIt could be a spider bite. Seek medical attention if you are in pain or feel ill.Thanks!
QuestionI have a bite that is turning black. What is it?
Registered NurseRegistered NurseExpert AnswerThat's hard to say online, but you need to see a doctor for treatment right away.Thanks!
QuestionHow long does a bedbug bite last? How long does it itch?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA bedbug bite remains on the skin for a couple of days. The itching will be persistent if the bugs have not been removed. Check your mattress and pillows to identify whether bedbugs is your problem.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I get rid of chiggers?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere are certain bands that produce an odor that they dont like. Put one of these on your ankle, or wherever they are.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I find out what kind of bug bit me if I didn't see it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSometimes the shape or color of the bite is indicative, or whether it is itchy, painful, or doesn't cause any irritation. Research the symptoms of common insect bites to get a better idea.Thanks!
QuestionWhat leaves two small pinholes?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThat could be a spider bite. Keep an eye on it. If it becomes swollen/bruised, make an appointment with your doctor right away.Thanks!
QuestionAre mosquitoes bites typically found in groups?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, mosquito bites don't typically appear in groups.Thanks!
I have a blood red circle about 3/8 inch wide. Does not itch or feel pain. What could cause it?
Something bit me on my face around my temple. It keeps swelling up and pus is coming out of it. What could this be
Do spider bites inflame again months later?
I woke up this morning and I had a red swollen bump on the side of my eye with a larger circle around it & no pain or itching, about the size of a quarter, what could it be
My son has a round red mark on both his ankles dot in the middle and feels tight what is it
To identify insect bites, start by checking whether you have 1 small, itchy bump or a cluster of small, itchy bumps. A single bump that's itchy and red, for example, is most likely from a fly or mosquito. Small bumps that are grouped together may be flea bites, especially if they’re around your waist or other areas where clothes fit tightly to your body. If the bite is bright red, but painless, you may have been bit by a tick. See a doctor immediately if the bite turns into a rash in a bull’s eye pattern, since this is a common sign of Lyme disease.
- Most insect bites and stings will irritate the skin temporarily but generally the effects will wear off. Unless someone has an allergy to certain types of insect bites and stings, only the most venomous spiders and insects will cause a notable reaction.
- An internet search to identify an insect bite may not return any results on spider bites. Spiders are arachnids, not insects. Anyone suspecting a spider bite should search for them by name to confirm.
- Avoid provoking insects, as that is a good way to get them to bite in self-defense.
- When outdoors, use insect repellents and protective clothing, like pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt.
- Sweet foods and garbage cans attract bees, flies, and other insects, so avoid staying too close.
- If you identify the bites as bedbugs, the best course is to call an exterminator to get rid of them.
- If you are allergic to insect bites or stings, you should wear a medical ID and have an emergency epinephrine (EpiPen) with you. Make sure your friends and family know how to use the EpiPen should you go into shock.
- If you experience trouble breathing, a swollen or itchy throat, or trouble swallowing, call emergency services or go to an emergency room immediately. This can indicate an anaphylactic reaction.
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