Insect Bites and Stings

Definition

Insect bites and stings may be caused by a variety of bugs. You may or may not know what bit you. A bite or sting may go unnoticed or can cause irritating skin reactions. Most bites and stings can be safely treated at home.For some people, insect bites or stings can cause severe allergic reactions. These reactions will require prompt medical attention. If you think that you are having a severe allergic reaction, get medical help immediately.

Causes

Insect bites and stings are caused by:
  • Biting insects (such as mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks)
  • Stinging insects (such as bees, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, and fire ants)
Mosquito Bite
Mosquito bite
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Risk Factors

Your chance of being bitten or stung by an insect is increased if you:
  • Work or spend a lot of time outdoors
  • Live in warmer climates
  • Fail to use proper protection
  • Forget to use flea and tick preventive measures for pets
  • Collect insects as a hobby

Symptoms

Most insect bites and stings will cause a reaction in the skin around the bite. The most common symptoms include:
  • Mild swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Heat
  • Itching
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling, redness, or hives covering most of your body
  • A feeling that your throat is closing up
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chills, muscle aches, or cramps
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headachesweating
If you have or suspect a severe allergic reaction, call for emergency medical services right away.

Diagnosis

Not all insect bites or stings require medical attention.If you have had a severe reaction, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will be asked about the type of insect that bit or stung you. If possible, try to obtain a sample of the insect.Your doctor will use this information to understand what is causing your symptoms and how to treat them.

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