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Bug bites form when insects inject small amounts of venom through a bite. Common insect bites include spider bites, bed bug bites, mosquito bites, and tick or fleabites.

Often, the symptoms of these bites are discomfort, itching and raised bumps. If you are bitten by a poisonous spider such as a black widow, go to the ER immediately.

How are bug bites treated?

Oral and topical antihistamines—or anti-itch creams—relieve itchiness and cause relief. Oral pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can lessen pain.

There are simple steps to avoid bug bites, especially when outdoors. To prevent bites:

  • Wear hats and clothing that provide full coverage
  • Wear neutral or white colors
  • Avoid perfume or scented lotion
  • Use repellant spray or citronella candles
  • Avoid wooded, brushy and grassy areas
  • Tuck pant legs into socks or shoes

When do bug bites need medical attention?

If a bite is poisonous or causes an allergic reaction or infection, seek immediate medical attention. Some people have severe allergies and can experience anaphylaxis, which is severe and life-threatening. Call 911 immediately in these cases.

Symptoms of allergic reaction that require medical care include:

  • Hives
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the affected area
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Muscle spasms
  • Itching or swelling in areas of the face

Bites can become infected by the insect itself or by breaking the skin open through scratching. Infected bites can lead to very serious conditions. Symptoms of infection include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sores or blisters with pus
  • Inflammation
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Swollen glands
  • Warmth and swelling in bite area

Some insect bites can cause illnesses like Lyme disease, West Nile virus, malaria and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks should be removed immediately and carefully. If a “bull’s-eye” or target-shaped patch develops around the tick bite, seek medical care immediately.

Seek medical attention if you develop an allergic reaction, infection or symptoms of a more serious condition from bug bites.

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