Whether you’re going camping or just going for a picnic, hiking in the mountains or walking through a park, bugs can find you. If you have never gotten a bug bite, congratulations! You are one of the lucky ones; somehow you are the Brussels sprouts at the bug buffet.  For the rest of us, here’s just a quick guide for bug bites:

 (Photo from MedlinePlus)

What do bug bites look like? What kind of bite do I have?

WebMD actually has a pretty good slideshow of pictures that show what the bites of several of the most common bugs look like. Please check out their guide here (Bad Bugs: Identifying the bug & its bite).

Bug bites are often itchy and may have localized swelling, redness and pain. Tingling, numbness, burning, and stinging are common.

How do I treat bug bites?

In most cases bug bites are mild and can be easily treated at home, by:

*Removing the sting if present. Do this by scraping with a credit card or other straight-edged object. Using tweezers can squeeze the venom sack which can lead to more of the venom being released into the skin.

*Clean the area with a gentle soap and water

*Apply an ice pack or bag of ice to the area to reduce any pain & swelling. Aim for about 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off for a while. If it’s a large area, I often recommend using frozen peas because their small size molds to the area better.

*Elevate the affected limb. This may also help to reduce swelling.

*Use medication – apply an hydrocortisone or other topical cream to help relieve itching & pain, or take an antihistamine to help lessen the body’s reaction to the bite

How do I know if I should see a doctor?

First, if you are concerned, do see a doctor. Your intuition may be picking up on something that indicates trouble. But a few of the main symptoms of a severe or worrisome bug bite reaction include:

*difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

*nausea, cramps or vomiting

*difficulty swallowing

*faintness or dizziness

*swelling in the face or swelling anywhere on the body that is about 4 inches or larger

*”target” lesion/rash (can indicate Lyme disease)

What should we do in case of a severe reaction?

Go to emergency/urgent care as soon as possible. Severe reactions can become fatal quickly. While you are waiting for the ambulance (or if you’re camping and need to rush that person to the ER yourself), a few steps you can do are:

*Check the person’s belongings for an epi-pen or similar. If the person has a known allergy to a certain bite, they may have this on them for just such a case.

*Loosen any tight clothing & do not apply a tourniquet. These can reduce blood flow and lead to the loss of a limb if done incorrectly.

*Do CPR if necessary & if you are able

*Turn the person onto their side if there is vomiting so that they don’t choke

How can I prevent bug bites?

*Bug spray is obviously helpful. I know many people are concerned about DEET and other chemicals in bug spray, but many “all natural” & “green” solutions are not very effective (if they work at all), which can put you at risk for a variety of potentially fatal diseases. The Huffington Post recently had a good article on how to properly select & use bug spray (Bug Spray Mistakes) that you can check out for more info on using bug spray.

*Avoid areas where there are a lot of biting bugs. I remember a family reunion one year where we set up next to the forest and there were A LOT of mosquitoes. Lo & behold, on the other side of those trees was a large body of still water (just the type where mosquitoes like to lay their eggs & hang out). If possible, try to scout out a better location.

*Try not to attract them. Obviously perfumes & clothing with floral patterns will attract all sorts of bugs. Dark colored clothing can also attract bugs because it traps the heat, which can make you a beacon of sorts for bugs that are attracted to body heat. Bees are attracted to sweet beverages (I have experienced this personally when a bee was walking all around the soda I had in my hand) and trash cans (which often contain all sorts of things bees like)

*Don’t provoke insects. Many bugs, including spiders and scorpions, typically only bite when they feel threatened, so don’t handle them or bother them. For the most part, adults know this, but please carefully supervise and teach children to leave the bugs alone because sometimes their curiosity can take over.


For more information, please visit:

Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-insect-bites/basics/art-20056593)

Medline Plus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000033.htm)

KidsHealth.org (http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/emergencies/insect_bite.html#

BLOG DISCLAIMER: Information on this blog is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose or treat any skin ailment. Please make an appointment with your physician for personalized medical advice. 


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