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FAQs About Bug Bites

Most of us will get bitten by a bug at some point during our lifetime, if not more than once. While this typically isn’t a cause for concern, sometimes insects can cause unpleasant symptoms or carry diseases that can lead to more serious health problems. Here are answers to some of the top questions a general practitioner often gets regarding bug bites.

What are the most common types of bug bites?

Here in the US, some of the most common insect bites we see come from,

  • Flies (e.g. horse flies; deer flies)
  • Mosquitoes
  • Bedbugs
  • Lice
  • Fleas
  • Water bugs
  • Kissing bugs

While ticks and spiders also bite, they are arachnids, not insects.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bug bite?

Symptoms will vary a bit based on the type of insect; however, most bites look like small, red, and sometimes itchy bumps. Sometimes the areas around the bite may be red or swollen (a possible sign of infection) or there may be a sore or painful ulcer in the skin rather than a lump.

If a person has an allergy to insect bites, they may develop more serious symptoms such as hives or trouble breathing. If you or your child develops symptoms of an allergic reaction it’s important that you seek medical attention right away.

What infections and diseases can bugs spread?

Unfortunately, insects often carry with them disease, which can be spread to people through insect bites and stings. Some of the most common diseases that we see are:

  • Yellow fever
  • Chagas disease (“the kissing disease”)
  • Zika virus
  • Malaria
  • Encephalitis

When should I see a doctor about a bug bite?

If you notice significant pain or swelling after an insect bite it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor. If there are symptoms of an infection, if the bite gets worse or spreads, or if you notice other symptoms such as a fever or chills, you should call your doctor right away.

How should I treat an insect bite?

If you or your child is experiencing severe symptoms it’s important that you seek immediate medical attention; otherwise, most bug bites can be treated with simple at-home care. It’s important to keep the area clean to prevent infection. You may want to apply a medicated cream or ointment to the skin to reduce pain or itching. Antihistamines can also be taken orally to help lessen the symptoms of bug bites.

If you are noticing signs of infection or other worrisome symptoms after a bug bite, your general doctor is going to be able to provide you with the immediate care you need. Turn to your general practitioner today.

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