September 12, 2022
While most bites are only itching annoyances, others can be quite harmful if not handled appropriately. The summer season tends to bring out more bugs like mosquitoes, bees and wasps in full force. Here's a rundown of some of these bothersome critters – and bites – to be aware of.
While bedbug bites are not life-threatening, they must be diagnosed as soon as they appear. When a bedbug bites you, it injects an anesthetic, which numbs the area, making it difficult for you to know you've been bitten. In fact, most people are unaware that they have been bitten until bite marks show one to several days after the original contact. They usually show as a somewhat swollen and red area that itch, similar to a mosquito or flea. These, on the other hand, will frequently run in a straight line and gather in a concentrated location that was exposed while you slept (such as the back, stomach or legs). Even though they do not transmit disease, an infestation in your mattress requires immediate extermination if you do not want the problem to expand and cause you to miss out on crucial sleep. After you've dealt with the critters' breeding grounds, the best method to treat yourself is to avoid scratching; excessive scratching might result in secondary skin diseases.
find a MedExpress near you
Concerned about a bug bite or sting? You can visit your neighborhood medical center from 8 to 8.
Chiggers come from larvae of a type of mite and feed on vertebrates such as humans. Their bites cause a crimson welt with bright red spots in the middle, as well as a severe and unyielding itch. Chiggers are so little that identifying them with the naked eye might be difficult, but they can be visible on the skin when they are gathered in a group due to their red color. Chigger bites can occur anywhere, although they most commonly appear in clusters around the waist or lower legs. Interestingly, these animals have sensitive mouth parts that can only enter sections of skin with folds or creases, so keep an eye out for those. The bite will inject a digesting enzyme into the host's skin, causing tissue destruction. Because chiggers feed on human tissue rather than blood, the damaged area can take several weeks to heal. To relieve the itch, take over-the-counter antihistamines and apply cold compresses.
Ticks are little spider-like animals, often known as blood-sucking parasites that bite to attach to the skin and feed on blood. It takes between 24 and 48 hours after initial contact for a tick to spread germs into your bloodstream. They can transmit a variety of dangerous diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, Powassan, and, most notoriously, Lyme disease. Ticks with Lyme disease are the most common in the Northeastern states. They are attracted to warm, wet parts of your skin, so check waistbands and sock lines if you spend a lot of time outside. Most people are aware of the conventional "bulls-eye," a circular skin rash that occurs around the bite. This is the most prevalent symptom; however it does not affect everyone. Muscle spasms, joint discomfort, fever, headache and weariness are also key warning symptoms to be aware of. If you've been bitten by a tick, see a health care professional as soon as possible to have it safely removed. Because different parts of the country have different risks when it comes to diseases transmitted by ticks, ask your health care professional if further testing or treatment is needed in order to prevent chronic disease.
Although most spiders in the United States are not poisonous, some do bite and leave an unpleasant reminder. Seeing the spider that bit you is the best method to identify if you need to be concerned about a spider bite. Brown recluses, black widows, tarantulas and jumping spiders may require additional medical care. However, if you missed the spider, the symptoms might still help you evaluate your risk. A bite from a harmless spider will usually leave a red bump that may be itchy or swollen. However, bites by dangerous spiders, such as the black widow and brown recluse, can cause extreme pain, swelling, sweating, cramping, chills, and body aches. If an itchy rash worsens, you have discomfort around the bite, or the bite begins to blister, you should consult a health care professional.
Two spiders you should be aware of are Widow and Recluse spiders.
Signs and symptoms of a Widow spider bite:
- Redness, pain and swelling. You might have pain and swelling around the bite, which can spread into your abdomen, back or chest.
- Cramping. You might have severe abdominal rigidity or cramping, which is sometimes mistaken for appendicitis or a ruptured appendix.
- Nausea, vomiting, tremors or sweating. You might experience nausea, vomiting, tremors or sweating alone or in combination.
- Symptoms can last 1 to 3 days.
Signs and symptoms of a Recluse spider bite:
- Increasing pain over the first eight hours after the bite.
- Fever, chills and body aches.
- A bite wound with a pale center that turns dark blue or purple with a red ring around it.
- A bite wound that grows into an open sore (ulcer) with the skin around it dying.
If bitten by a spider, seek medical care immediately if:
- You were bitten by a dangerous spider, such as a widow or recluse.
- You're unsure whether the bite was from a dangerous spider.
- You have severe pain, abdominal cramping or a growing wound at the bite site.
- You're having problems breathing or swallowing.
- The area of the sore has spreading redness or red streaks.
The vast majority of people who are stung by a wasp will only have minor symptoms like redness, swelling, itching, and, of course, the intense stinging sensation during and after the wasp sting. A tiny welt with a white dot will usually emerge surrounding the sting. Some people might experience more severe symptoms, such as extreme redness or swelling that worsens for two or three days following the sting. What you really need to keep an eye on is the first few minutes after the bite. While most wasp stings may be treated at home, those who are allergic to the wasp's venom may experience anaphylactic shock. If you’re aware that you are allergic to wasps, it is recommended to carry an EpiPen with you anytime you go outside. To minimize swelling in mild to moderate responses, wash the affected area with soap and water and apply a cold pack. If you have access, Benadryl should also help with any pain or swelling. You should seek emergency medical assistance if you have symptoms such as significant swelling of the face, lips, or throat, lightheadedness, difficulty breathing, a weak or racing pulse, or even hives.
Scabies is a common, itchy skin rash caused by the bite of mite. When the mites burrow into the skin, it takes time to develop signs and symptoms and the itching usually begins within one to four days. Itching is the most common symptom. The itch can be so intense that it keeps a person awake at night. It may also appear as a rash that causes bumps that might look like a line. These bumps can look like hives, pimples or eczema and it is important you don’t scratch them so they don’t develop into sores. In a severe case of scabies, it may crust, this being referred to as crusted scabies.
Scabies are spread by person to person contact and is highly contagious. If you suspect you have it, consult your healthcare provider immediately to help confirm the diagnosis and begin a prescription. The person diagnosed with scabies and everyone who has had close contact with that person needs treatment. Everyone who lives with the person and all recent sexual partners should get treated whether showing symptoms or not. This is the only way to prevent new outbreaks of scabies weeks later.
Unfortunately, most of us are all too familiar with this one; its bite causes a red, raised lump that itches violently. While most individuals in the United States know about the typical symptoms of a mosquito bite, this does not mean that these bugs are completely harmless. Because of an allergy to mosquito saliva, some people may develop more severe symptoms such as tiny blisters or bruises. Worse, a mosquito bite can be more dangerous for people who have immune diseases. If a mosquito bite causes a severe fever, hives, enlarged lymph nodes or headache, get medical assistance immediately. These bugs are common carriers of severe illnesses such as Zika, malaria and yellow fever, so use extreme caution in places notorious for outbreaks—especially if you've recently traveled. Prevention is key to avoiding travel related illness. It’s not a good idea to scratch bug bites as it can potentially lead to breaks in the skin, which presents the opportunity for bacteria to enter and cause skin infections. Our hands and under our fingernails can carry lots of germs and pathogens so resist the urge to scratch.
Most bites and stings cause only little discomfort, but certain encounters can be more serious, especially if you are allergic to the bug venom. Wildlife has means of preserving themselves and their territory, whether you're in the ocean, on a mountain trek or in your own backyard. If you come too close, insects such as bees, ants, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, wasps and arachnids may bite or sting you. Most will not bother you if you do not bother them, but understanding what to look for is essential. Prevention is always the best medicine, learning how to identify and avoid biting and stinging animals or insects is the best way to keep safe. If you find yourself in need of care for your bug bites, don’t hesitate to visit one of our neighborhood medical centers and a member of our medical team would be happy to treat you get you back to feeling better.
1 Everyday Health: What Bit Me? Spot these 13 Bug Bites. Last update April 23, 2021. Accessed August 3, 2022.
2 Mayo Clinic: Spider Bite. Last Updated July 30, 2021. Accessed August 3, 2022.
3 American Academy of Dermatology Association: Scabies: Overview. Accessed August 3, 2022.