Insect Bites And Stings Symptoms

By Wendy Innes. May 7th 2016

At some point we are all going to experience an insect bite or sting, and boy, can they can be quite uncomfortable. In some cases they can even be life threatening. In this article, you’ll find some helpful information on insect bites and stings to help prevent a bigger problem from occurring.

The Problems They Cause

Insect bites and stings can vary widely. Some people experience almost no problems associated with them while others have a life threatening reaction. And if that isn't enough, some insect bites and stings, such as the bites from arthropods and stings from mosquitos can also carry the risk of disease. Arthropods are a type of insect that includes flies, ticks fleas, mosquitoes and lice.

Flies, ticks, fleas, mosquitos and lice can carry a wide range of diseases, including:

  • Plague
  • West Nile Fever
  • Lyme Disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Tularemia
  • Chaga's Disease
  • Encephalitis
  • Yellow Fever
  • Dengue Fever
  • Malaria
  • Various strains of Typhus

Severe Reactions

Some people experience a severe reaction to insect bites and stings called anaphylaxis. This can be life threatening unless something is done to stop the reaction. The symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Facial swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hives
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Shock, marked by a decrease in blood pressure and circulation

The reaction a person has to a bite or sting, whether mild or severe, is caused by the venom that is injected into the skin. The insects that are most likely to cause severe reactions are bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and fire ants. Scorpion stings and fire ant bites can cause very severe reactions and people have died from them, though this is a rare occurrence.

If a person experiences a severe reaction to a bite or sting, call 911 immediately. Less severe reaction can usually be treated at home with little difficulty. Some bites and stings, however, may still need medical attention, even if a person doesn't experience a severe reaction, such as those from a brown recluse spider.

Some people who know that they have severe reactions to some insect bites or stings will be prescribed a medication to stop the reaction. These come in auto-injectors such as EpiPen or Twinject, and usually contain epinephrine. If someone has been prescribed one of these devices, he should read all of the instructions carefully before the need to use the device arises.


The signs and symptoms associated with insect bites and stings can vary greatly from person to person and from insect to insect. The most common symptoms experienced at the site of the bite or sting include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

These symptoms, though bothersome, can be managed at home. However, depending upon the insect that caused the bite or sting, medical attention may still be required.


There are a number of different treatment options for insect bites and stings. They include:

  • Cold: Applying ice to a bite or sting has a numbing affect and can help ease pain and reduce swelling. Just remember that ice should never be applied directly to the skin as it can cause damage to the skin.
  • Topical creams: These include creams with the active ingredients hydrocortisone, lidocaine, pramoxine, and diphenhydramine can help control itching and pain from bites and stings.
  • Antihistamine pills: These include pills with the active ingredients diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine maleate. They are available over-the-counter. Some prescription allergy medications may also help.
  • Chickweed: Chickweed has been known for centuries to help calm itchy skin. It can be used as a cream, or the plant can be juiced. It is applied to the skin or it can be made into an infusion and added to bath water.
  • Witch hazel: This plant is typically infused in water and used to calm irritated skin, making it a great choice for insect bites and stings. It is widely available ready-to-use in the first aid section of most stores.
  • Evening primrose oil: This oil has been widely studied and used for the treatment of skin conditions. It helps reduce redness and swelling. Evening primrose oil can be taken internally to help moisturize dry skin, but it should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Borage Oil: This oil has a significant amount of omega-6 fatty acids, making it an excellent anti-inflammatory skin treatment. It is especially good at soothing itchy skin. This oil should not be used by those on medications for epilepsy as it can interfere with the medication.
  • Aloe Vera: This cactus-like plant is easy to grow most anywhere and is invaluable when it comes to skin problems. It is effective at treating burns and rashes, but it is equally good at treating allergic skin reactions. It cools and sooths irritated skin with its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Calendula: This member of the marigold family has long been used for treating a variety of skin problems and it is excellent at soothing irritated skin as well as relieving pain. It is also antimicrobial and anti-viral so it can help prevent infections as well.
  • St.John's Wort: Widely known to be effective at treating depression when taken in pill form, St. John's Wort is also good for wounds when the oil is applied topically. The oil is naturally antiseptic so it can help guard against secondary infection after a bite. It can also be mixed with other oils for maximum relief.


  • Remove the person from the area to prevent further stings
  • Attempt to identify the bug so that if medical treatment is necessary the doctor with know what caused the reaction.
  • Remove the stinger and venom sack carefully if present. To do this, use a credit card or dull knife and scrape along the surface of the skin to remove it intact.
  • Clean the area of the bite or sting with soap and water to prevent secondary infection and to remove any remaining venom.
  • Watch for signs of infection or diseases resulting from the bite or sting.


  • Apply any sort of tourniquet to the area.
  • Take any aspirin or other pain reliever without consulting a doctor first.
  • Wait to figure out how to use an auto-injector. If someone in the home needs one, learn how to use it. It could save their life.
  • Use a tweezers to remove a stinger. It could force more venom from the venom sack into the sting.
  • And don’t panic.

Most insect bites and stings can be treated quickly and easily at home and reactions are not common. Basic first aid and time will be all that is needed and the discomfort will be gone in no time.


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