A Guide To Bug Bite Identification And Treatment

By:    Published: July 20, 2012

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Bug bites are usually just an annoyance due to the fact that they are often itchy and unsightly, but rarely life threatening. However, it's still important to know how to treat them since even seemingly innocuous bites can turn out to be more serious than expected. Read this article to learn more about identifying different bug bites and treatment methods.

How To Identify Different Insect Bites

One of the key tricks to the treatment of insect bites is to first figure out what type of bug bit you in the first place. Here is a quick rundown of some of the most common bug bites and how to identify them:

  • Mosquitoes: Mosquito bites can vary in size and shape depending on a person's sensitivity to the insect. However, the bites are typically slightly swollen, red in color and very itchy. Try not to scratch them to avoid infection.
  • Fire ants: A fire ant bite usually comes with a small, pus-filled lesion that burns and itches.
  • Bed bugs: Bed bug bites are usually just small red splotches on the skin. They tend to be very itchy, so try your best not to scratch them.
  • Bees: Along with wasps, hornets and yellow jackets, bees don't bite. Instead, they sting, usually leaving behind a small, swollen area centered around a tiny red dot where the sting occurred. If you begin suffering symptoms of an allergic reaction after being stung, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Ticks: Tick bites are easy to spot because the tick is usually still attached to your skin. It's important to use tweezers to remove the tick as soon as you find these bites. Most bites aren't serious, but be on the lookout for a large, "bull's eye" shaped skin rash which is usually a sign of Lyme disease and requires medical attention.
  • Black widow: This particular type of spider is poisonous and leaves two red fang marks where it bites. Get medical care right away if you believe you've been bitten by this venomous spider.

Home Remedies

Most bug bites can be easily treated at home. However, it's important to watch for any possible allergic reactions, including significant swelling, nausea or cramping. Those reactions require medical attention. However, if none of those symptoms appear, just use the following tips to treat the bite:

  • If stung by a bee or wasp, remove the stinger right away.
  • Wash the bitten area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold pack or some ice cubes in a baggie to the area to reduce swelling and help ease any pain associated with the bite or sting.
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may also be taken to reduce pain.
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream to the area a few times a day until the bite disappears. Alternatives to hydrocortisone cream include calamine lotion or a paste made from three parts baking soda and one part water.
  • Take an antihistamine to relieve pain and itching.

Over-The-Counter Treatments

In addition to the hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines that you can use to treat bug bites, there are also several over-the-counter treatments you can use to treat or prevent bug bites. Anti-itch cream can be purchased for problem bites, and bandages can be applied to help prevent scratching the affected area. Many people use rubbing alcohol to relieve the itchiness of their bug bites. Some of the common herbal remedies for relieve bug bite pain and itching include tea, tree oil or lavender oil.

When To See A Doctor

If you believe you may have Lyme disease or have been bitten by poisonous spider or insect, seek medical attention immediately. Additionally, watch for any signs of infection that you may have acquired from a bug bite. If any of the following symptoms appear, it's time to see a doctor:

  • Lasting pain, redness, warmth or swelling at the site of the bite
  • Streaks of red around the bite area
  • Pus coming from the site of the bite
  • Fever or chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your groin, neck or armpits

Preventing Bug Bites In The Future

You can purchase a wide range of insect-repellant products in order to prevent more bites in the future. Sprays, lotions and candles are some of the most common bug-repellant products available today. However, new products are always in the works, including small, clip-on fans that attach to clothing, or moist towels that can be wiped over the skin. Visit your local drug store to stock up on bug-repellant products.

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