Bug bites have a way of creeping up on us out of nowhere. One second you are fine, and the next, you are left with a red, swelling welt on your skin without an inkling of where it came from. The good news is that most bites from common bugs and insects are harmless and only trigger minor discomfort, swelling, and itchiness.
However, some encounters can be more deadly than others. Bites and stings from poisonous arachnids, wasps, bees, and fire ants may result in an allergic reaction that can lead to serious medical emergencies, or in the worst-case scenario, death.
Certain bugs and insects are also notorious for spreading infectious agents such as the Zika virus, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Malaria. This does not necessarily mean that the disease originated from the insect itself; they came upon the infectious microorganism the same way humans do—through exposure to an infected living creature.
Identifying a Bug Bite
Identifying what bit you is the first order of business. Put a name to the culprit by examining the signs and symptoms it left on the victim. The marks left on the body are good indicators of the cause and severity of the bite.
For example, common bugs cause localized red bumps on the site with itching and mild burning sensation. At the same time, bee stings leave a tiny red mark around a white-colored skin site.
Knowing how a bite looks and feels will help you identify what caused it, as well as the treatment or immediate care that the patient needs. So, here are some common clues to bug bites and stings.
Mosquitoes leave a raised, itchy, reddish skin bump that appears immediately after you have been bitten. Later on, the bump will progress into a hard, red, swollen mark or, in rare cases, may develop a severe allergic reaction to the body.
Typical mosquito bites are harmless, but at the unluckiest of times, a bite may come with an infectious agent that may cause serious diseases to the body. Mosquitoes are known vectors of West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, Dengue, and Zika virus. These viruses are the causative agents of several diseases that might lead to body hemorrhages, meningitis, and encephalitis if not treated.
Bed bugs usually target exposed body areas such as the neck, hands, and feet. Puncture wounds appear as clustered red marks forming a line. Itchy blisters, rash, or hives might appear at the site of the puncture because of the body’s reaction to the saliva of bed bugs. This may last for up to one to three days and might develop into inflamed reddish welts.
Bed bugs might cause intense itchiness and inflammation, but that is about the extent of what they can do. Fortunately, they are not known to carry any diseases that might infect humans.
Regardless of what mainstream media would have us believe, most spider bites are not poisonous. Spiders that live in the dark areas of our homes will only leave painful red swellings at the site of the puncture. It does not require emergency help unless an allergic reaction occurs. Some individuals who are unknowingly allergic to spider bites may experience chest tightness, breathing difficulties, swelling of the face, and swallowing problems.
Dangerous spiders endemic in Australian or South American areas often leave two small puncture marks (black widow) or a single raised pustule at the site of the bite, together with redness and tenderness.
These bites are not as noticeable in the first 30 minutes, but after a few hours, they will become more painful and will look like blisters. After eight hours, you may start to experience systemic symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, muscle rigidity, breathing difficulties, and seizure. Some vicious and poisonous spiders that might induce these kinds of reactions include:
- Brown recluse
- Black widow
- Funnel-web spider
- Hobo spider
- Wandering spider
- Wolf spider
If bitten by a poisonous insect, be sure to seek immediate medical attention.
Tick bites leave painful, swelling rashes that often look like an expanding bull’s eye. This is followed by mild to severe burning sensation and the development of blisters. The culprit often remains attached to the bitten area for a long time.
Some ticks harbor infectious microorganisms, which can affect humans when bitten. They are notoriously known to spread illnesses such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Clustered flea bite marks tend to appear hours after a person has been bitten. It will cause itchy welts on the skin accompanied by swelling, soreness, and small rashes that may or may not bleed. Rashes may turn white upon pressure and can get larger in diameter over time.
Fleas target legs, ankles, armpits, knees, and elbows. Scratching the site of the bite may lead to an infection that needs immediate medical assistance.
Treating Bug Bites
Prevention is always the best solution. Reduce the risk of being bitten by doing preventive measures such as using insect repellants, bed nets, lengthy pieces of clothing, and avoiding insect-prone areas.
However, when the unthinkable happens, professional dermatologists recommend these simple remedies to treat common bug bites and stings.
- For painful stings, take OTC medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve the pain.
- For swelling and inflammation, apply a towel-wrapped ice pack at the inflamed site. This can reduce pain and itchiness.
- For itchiness, take OTC medications such as diphenhydramine or apply anti-itch creams containing hydrocortisone and lidocaine to the site. You can also opt to apply a homemade topical paste made up of water and baking soda.
For serious symptoms and allergic reactions, immediately seek the help of medical professionals. Rightway is dedicated to helping patients navigate and get the healthcare that they need.