When Should You Worry About an Insect Bite?

Most of the insect bites are not worrisome and heals quickly
Most of the insect bites are not worrisome and heals quickly

Most of the insect bites are not worrisome and heals quickly; however, some of the insect bites may be dangerous if they induce the following symptoms:

Stings from large hornets or multiple bee stings have been reported to cause muscle breakdown, kidney failure, and even death.

Bites from fire ant produce an itchy and painful pustule or a pimple-like sore. 

Spiders’ bites, especially black widow spider bites, cause symptoms such as:

The insect bites may cause transmission of diseases such as:

  • Malaria
  • West Nile virus (characterized by body aches, diarrhea, fever, headaches, nausea, or other symptoms that appear within two weeks of the bites)
  • Equine encephalitis (a rare but serious and often fatal infection that causes the inflammation of the brain)
  • Zika virus (a disease caused by Zika virus spread through a mosquito bite)
  • Dengue
  • Yellow fever
  • Relapsing fever
  • Leishmaniasis (caused by a parasite leishmania spread by sandflies)
  • Sleeping sickness (caused by infection with the parasite Trypanosoma brucei)
  • Tularemia (bacteria-caused diseases spread by deer fly bites)
  • Bubonic plague (spread by fleas)
  • Typhus Rickettsia (spread by lice)
  • Lyme disease (spread by ticks)
  • Dysentery and typhoid (spread by houseflies)
  • Impetigo (a local bacterial infection)
  • Cellulitis (a bacterial infection that spreads to the skin)
  • Lymphangitis (a bacterial infection that spreads up the lymph channels)

Seek immediate medical attention if you observe:

  • Trouble breathing wheezing
  • Past life-threatening allergic reaction to the same insect bite
  • Hoarse voice, cough, or tightness in the throat or chest
  • Trouble swallowing, drooling, or slurred speech
  • Hard to wake up
  • Acts or talks confused
  • Hives or swelling all over the body
  • Any bite in a child needs to be shown to the doctor
  • Fever and bite look infected
  • A child looks or acts very sick

Seek medical attention within 24 hours if you observe the following:

  • Severe pain that doesn’t get better after taking pain medicines
  • New redness around the bite that starts more than 24 hours after the bite
  • Bite and redness gets larger even after 48 hours
  • Redness or red stripe around the bite gets larger than 1 inch

How to treat insect bites?

Treatment depends on the type of reaction to the bite or sting. A small or mild reaction such as redness and pain may require a local application of ice. Clean the area with soap and water to remove foreign particles.

Antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or cetirizine may relieve itching

People with severe reactions (anaphylaxis) may require emergency medical attention.

Some of the ways to prevent insect bites include:

  • Wearing clothes that cover the hands and legs when out
  • Using insect repellants by applying it to clothes, shoes, tents, mosquito nets, and other gear
  • Avoiding outdoor activities during twilight periods at dawn and dusk or in the evening to prevent mosquito bites
  • Repellents containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-metatoluamide) that are recommended as insect repellents


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