When is medical attention needed?
Most bites and stings are minor and can be treated at home. But you should seek medical attention if you experience the following symptoms:
Signs of allergic reaction: Some people can experience anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. This is a medical emergency that warrants calling 9-1-1 immediately. Signs of an allergic reaction, which may occur within seconds to minutes, include sneezing, wheezing, hives, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sudden anxiety, dizziness, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and itching or swelling of the eyes, lips, or other areas of the face. If you or your child has ever had an allergic reaction to a sting or bite, you should be evaluated by an allergist. In some cases, you may be advised to wear a medical identification tag that states the allergy, and to carry epinephrine, a medication used to treat serious or life-threatening allergic reactions. Sometimes allergy shots may also be recommended.
Symptoms of Lyme disease: Lyme disease, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick, can cause fever, headaches, fatigue, and a skin rash that looks like a circular red patch, or "bull's-eye." Left untreated, infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system. It is rarely, if ever, fatal. Patients who are treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely. Antibiotics commonly used for oral treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil (Ceftin). People with certain illnesses related to the heart or the nervous system require intravenous treatment with drugs such as ceftriaxone or penicillin.
Symptoms of West Nile virus: West Nile virus, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, can produce flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, and skin rash. While most infected individuals have mild disease and recover spontaneously, infection can be serious or even fatal. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus.
Symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Initial symptoms may include fever, nausea, vomiting, severe headache, muscle pain, and lack of appetite. The characteristic red, spotted rash of Rocky Mountain spotted fever is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after symptoms begin. As many as 10% to 15 % of patients may never develop a rash. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is treated with antibiotics.
Signs of infection: It is normal for a bite or sting to result in redness of the affected area and minor swelling. But if a bite or sting becomes infected, a fever may develop or the redness or soreness may worsen. In cases of infection, an antibiotic is the typical treatment.