Insect bites and stings may be caused by a variety of bugs. You may or may not know what bit you. A bite or sting may go unnoticed or can cause irritating skin reactions. Most bites and stings can be safely treated at home.
For some people, insect bites or stings can cause severe allergic reactions. These reactions will require prompt medical attention. If you think that you are having a severe allergic reaction, get medical help immediately.
Insect bites and stings are caused by:
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Your chance of being bitten or stung by an insect is increased if you:
Most insect bites and stings will cause a reaction in the skin around the bite. The most common symptoms include:
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:
If you have or suspect a severe allergic reaction, get medical help immediately.
Not all insect bites or stings require medical attention.
If you have had a severe reaction, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will be asked about the type of insect that bit or stung you. If possible, try to obtain a sample of the insect.
Your doctor will use this information to understand what is causing your symptoms and how to treat them.
Most insect bites and stings can be safely treated at home. After a bite or sting, consider the following steps:
Sometimes the insect or part of the insect may be left behind in the skin. Removing them will help the area heal and avoid further irritation or infection.
Medical help is needed for severe allergic reactions. Once you arrive at the hospital, treatment may include:
If you are diagnosed with an insect bite of sting, follow your doctor's instructions .
To help reduce your chances of getting an insect bite or sting, take the following steps:
While outdoors, in areas with insects:
Avoid areas or times when insects are most active:
Control pests around your home:
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Allergy/Asthma Information Association
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Bites and stings. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated August 16, 2012. Accessed September 27, 2012.
Bug bites and stings. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/PageManager.jsp?dn=KidsHealth&lic=1&ps=107&cat_id=20812&article_set=22987. Accessed September 25, 2012.
The buzz on insect bites and stings. Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/safety/first_aid/bug_bites.html. Accessed September 27, 2012.
Clark S, Camargo CA Jr. Emergency treatment and prevention of insect-sting anaphylaxis. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;6:279-83.
Foex BA, Lee C: Oral antihistamines for insect bites. Emergency Med J. 2006:23:721-22.
Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Textbook of Internal Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2008.
Graft DF. Insect sting allergy. Med Clin North Am. 2006;90:211-32.
Lewis FS, Smith LJ: What’s eating you?Bees, part 1: characteristics, reactions, and management. Cutis. 2007:78:439-44
Lewis FS, smith LJ: What’s eating you? Bees. Part 2: Venom immunotherapy and mastocytosis. Cutis. 2007:80:33-7
Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine.7th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc.; 2009.
Last reviewed December 2013 by David L Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2012 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.
What can we help you find?close ×