Treating Bug Bites


Bug bites happen, even with sprays and other forms of prevention. And when they do, it’s important to know how to treat these bites so they don’t turn into a bigger issue. This guide will help detail all of the best ways to treat bites when they happen.

What Are the Symptoms of An Insect Bite or Sting

Before you can focus on treating bug bites, it’s important to be able to diagnose them first. Bug bites and stings typically leave a red lump on the skin and form quickly after you have been bitten. These bumps may be painful and are often itchy right away. 

Some people may have a mild allergic reaction to bug bites, which can cause a larger area around the bite or sting to become more swollen red, and painful. 

Which Insects Can Bite or Sting? 

Not every insect can bite or sting, but several bugs can leave a mark behind. Here are some of the most common types of insect bites and stings to be on the lookout for so you know how to treat them.

Wasps, Bees, and Hornets 

These flying insects sting but don’t bite. Stings will typically cause sharp, instant pain. Bee stings are similar to wasp and hornet stings in how they feel. However, the sting of a bee is barbed, meaning it often gets left in the skin. 

If you have a barbed stinger left in the skin, you should try to remove it as soon as you can.

Red Ants  

Red ants are tiny creatures, but they can leave a big noticeable mark. Also called “fire ants,” red ants will bite and sting when they are threatened and they often attack in numbers, meaning you’ll have lots of little sharp bite marks when you come in contact with these minuscule insects.


Mosquito bites are relatively instant and cause a red bump to form and a lot of itchiness. In the US and the UK, mosquito bites typically don’t cause more than a lot of itchiness. However, in some overseas regions, mosquitos can spread diseases like malaria or West Nile virus. 

If you are traveling to a country where certain diseases can be caught, then make sure to take precautions. This may include taking malaria prevention tablets or getting shots before your scheduled travel. Make sure that you speak to your doctor or your pharmacist if you are planning on visiting an area with high rates of mosquito-spread illnesses.


Tick bites are different from most other insect bites. Typically, tick bites aren’t painful and people may not even realize that they have been bitten by a tick. However, sometimes they can cause an allergic reaction that can be painful or uncomfortable.

Ticks don’t just bite, they latch onto their skin or the host that they are biting. Many times, you will need to remove the tick from your skin with a pair of tweezers as they deeply latch into the skin. On rare occasions, ticks can spread an infection known as Lyme disease.  


Horseflies are large flies that are prone to biting. Horsefly bites can be painful, but what is more concerning is that they can become infected easily. It’s important to clean out a horsefly bite right away to prevent infection from happening. Sometimes a horsefly bite may cause dizziness or breathlessness. 

Midges and Gnats 

These bugs are very small, but notoriously buzz around and bite. They can cause itchy, and sometimes painful small bites. These bites may also be accompanied by swelling.


Bedbugs are teeny, tiny bugs that hide in materials like mattresses and sofa cushions. They can even hide in your clothes.  Bedbug bites are typically found in lines on the skin. These bites usually happen in a collection of bites. 

These bites are itchy but aren’t usually painful. 


Bites from mites cause small itchy red lumps. In some cases, mite bites can even cause blisters. 

First Aid For Insect Bites and Stings

So, you have a bug bite. There is no need to panic. Here’s how to apply first aid for insect bites.

  1. Remove any hairs, stings, or actual ticks that are still attached to the skin. If you have been stung and the stinger is left in the skin, it can mean more venom is being released into your body. Remove ticks right away to reduce your risk of picking up illnesses like Lyme disease.
  2. Raise or elevate the impacted area if possible, as this will help reduce swelling.
  3. Wash the area of your bug bite with soap and water, and pat dry. It’s important to keep the bite area clean to help prevent infection. 
  4. Apply an antiseptic cream to the skin around the bite. If your bug bite is itching, you may also want to try an anti-itch cream or a soothing cream to prevent unwanted itching. 

Typically, your bite will be fine in a few days, but if you are experiencing extreme symptoms or the bite is so painful it’s impacting your quality of life, then make sure to visit your doctor.

Dealing With Caterpillar Hairs 

If you have caterpillar hairs from an insect bite, here’s what to do: 

  1. Do not disturb it, such as wiping it or brushing it with your hands as it will release more hairs.
  2. Use ice packs to help with swelling and pain.
  3. Apply a calamine lotion or a pharmacy remedy that contains at least 3.5% ammonia to relieve the itch.
  4. Remove all contaminated clothing and wash it in warm or hot water.
  5. Do not towel yourself dry after rinsing or use any creams containing antihistamines.

Relieving the Symptoms of an Insect Bite or Sting

If you have noticeable symptoms from an insect bite or sting, then here’s how to treat the symptoms that you have.

  • Take over-the-counter painkillers for pain or discomfort. This includes products like ibuprofen.
  • If you are experiencing itching, ask your pharmacist about suitable treatments including hydrocortisone creams or ointments. Antihistamine tablets may also help with itchiness.
  • For bug bites that turn into swelling try applying a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area or ask your pharmacist about treatments such as antihistamine tablets.

When to Visit The Urgent Care for a Bug Bite 

Typically, you won’t need to visit a doctor for a bug bite, but in a few situations, you should make an appointment at Urgent Care. This includes the following situations:

  • Your symptoms don’t start improving within a few days, or the symptoms start getting worse.
  • You’ve been stung or bitten by your mouth, throat, or eyes. 
  • A large patch of your skin (100 cm or more) around the bite becomes red or swollen.
  • You have symptoms of wound infection, such as increasing pain, pus, swelling, or redness. This can typically be treated with antibiotics.
  • If you have symptoms of a more widespread infection, such as fever, swollen glands, or other flu-like symptoms.

These are not necessarily “emergencies” but may benefit from a trip to the doctor.

When to Get Emergency Help 

In very, very rare cases, certain bug bites can lead to emergencies. This includes some of the following symptoms:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Swollen face, mouth, or throat
  • Feeling sick 
  • A rapid heart rate 
  • Dizziness or feeling faint 
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of consciousness 

If you are experiencing these symptoms make sure to go to the Emergency Room.


Bug bites happen to the best of us, and typically they’re mostly annoying, and nothing more. 

However, it’s still important to make sure that you know how to treat these bites and when you need more professional attention for your bites. 

Centers Urgent care is here for all your medical needs. Our experienced providers are ready to help. Find a location closest to you here

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