How to Identify a Bug Bite and What to Do With It
Near a swimming pool, on a mountain trail, in the backyard of your friend’s house, and even in your own bed — they are hiding everywhere and waiting to catch you off guard. Often, we don’t even see exactly which insect has bitten us, there’s just a red sore on our skin and the annoying feeling of constant discomfort. And even if these bites usually look innocent, it’s better to know how to identify them and what to do, just to stay on the safe side.
AZtag created a short guide for you on how to distinguish bug bites and how to treat them.
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How it looks: Most spider bites are not dangerous and will only leave a small, swollen red mark on your skin. However, a few household spiders can be deadly. For example, 2 puncture marks are usually the sign of a black widow spider bite while a red bump with a small white blister that resembles a bruise may be the sign of a brown recluse spider bite.
What to do:
- If you got bitten by a harmless spider, just wash the site of the bite with soap and water and apply a cool compress. Then elevate the area and use an antibiotic ointment.
- If you suspect that you might have been bitten by a black widow or a brown recluse, elevate the affected area to prevent the spread of the venom. Then tie a snug bandage above the area, if it’s on an arm or leg, to further reduce the spread of the venom. After that, call an ambulance or go to the hospital.
© Wildfeuer / Wikimedia Commons
How it looks: Mosquito bites are known by everyone — they are puffy, hard, red, and very itchy bumps with a dot in the middle, that appear a few minutes after your encounter with these insects. They are usually the size of a berry and have a circular or blob-like shape.
What to do:
- Try not to scratch the affected area to reduce the risk of infection.
- Wash the bites with soap and water and apply a cold pack.
- You can also try applying aloe vera, a baking soda paste, and honey, or taking a cool bath without soap to ease the itching.
Warning: If you experience headaches, high temperature, chills, or any other unusual rashes, it’s better to see a doctor.
© James Gathany / Wikimedia Commons
© André Karwath / Wikimedia Commons
How it looks: Tick bites are often easy to identify because the tick itself can stay attached to your skin for up to 10 days. If it has dropped off, you might see a small red circle in the place where you got bitten, which usually doesn’t cause any pain. Take into account that ticks often move to the warmest places on your body, like the armpits and the groin.
What to do:
- If the tick is still attached to your skin, the first thing you should do is to remove it. For this, take pointy tweezers and grasp the tick as close as you can to your skin’s surface. Then pull straight up and away from the skin, applying steady pressure.
- Once the tick is off, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Put the tick in rubbing alcohol to make sure it’s dead and then place it in a sealed container.
Warning: Some black-legged ticks can carry Lyme disease. The first symptom of this disease is a bullseye shaped rash that can appear up to a month after the tick bite. You may also experience a fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint aches, and irregular heart rhythms. If you notice any of these signs, let your doctor know immediately.
© Daniel Wojcik / Wikimedia Commons
How it looks: The type of ants that usually cause the most trouble are red fire ants. Their bites start out as small, red spots and cause a hot, fiery sensation on the skin. A day or 2 later, white pustules form on the affected areas. These pustules are itchy and a little bit painful and can turn into scars over time.
What to do:
- Wash the affected area with soap and water, cover it with a bandage, and apply ice to reduce the pain.
- In most cases, fire ant stings don’t require any special treatment — they will itch for a few days, but they should completely go away within a week.
- To relieve the discomfort, you can use cold packs, pain relievers, and antihistamines.
Warning: If you notice that the sting is continuing to swell or grow larger a day or 2 after you’re stung, this may be a sign of a secondary infection. Difficulty breathing, a swollen throat, and dizziness are definite reasons to call your doctor.
© Maslesha / Wikimedia Commons
How it looks: Flea bites usually appear in groups of 3 or 4 on the lower part of your body around your feet, ankles, or legs. The bites themselves are very small and look like red spots with a halo. As a rule, they are painful and extremely itchy.
What to do:
- Use an antiseptic to keep any infection from spreading and avoid scratching the bites.
- Apply ice or cold water to prevent swelling and inflammation.
- Stop the itching with cream or lotion. If they don’t work on you, try an oral antihistamine.
Warning: If you feel nausea, difficulty breathing, swelling of your lips or face, or chest pain, go see your doctor immediately.
3. Bed bug
© Oliver Arend / Wikimedia Commons
How it looks: You can easily recognize the bed bugs’ work if you see small red swollen bumps that are located close to each other and form a straight line, cluster, or a random pattern. Typically, they occur on the exposed skin of your upper body, like your neck, arms, and shoulders, and each of them has a darker red spot in the middle.
What to do:
- To reduce the risk of infection, wash the bites with soap and water and don’t scratch them.
- To ease itching and prevent swelling, put something cool, like a clean damp cloth, on the affected area.
- You can also use anti-itch cream or calamine lotion topically.
- Oatmeal baths are another good way to soothe your skin.
How it looks: The skin after a bee sting immediately gets red and swollen, and the stinger is clearly visible in the center. A bit later, you might also feel burning, sharp pain, and a severe itch.
What to do:
- Remove the stinger as quickly as possible. To do this, use a dull-edged object like your own fingernails or the edge of a credit card. Avoid using tweezers or anything else that could puncture your skin. Don’t forget — the longer a bee’s stinger stays in, the more venom it can release, and the more painful it will be for you.
- Wash the affected area with soap and water to prevent infection.
- Apply a cool compress to reduce venom absorption.
- Elevate the area to reduce swelling.
Warning: If you experience swelling of your lips and tongue, itching in places other than the sting site, shortness of breath, hives all over your body, or dizziness, call 911 immediately.
© Niels Kolditz / Wikimedia Commons
How it looks: The symptoms of a wasp sting are like those after a bee sting — the area becomes red and swollen, and you feel pain and a burning sensation. There’s only one exception — the wasp doesn’t lose its stinger in your skin and it can sting you multiple times.
What to do:
- The first thing you should do when dealing with wasps is to prevent other possible stings. So stay away from them or apply a repellent beforehand.
- If you’ve gotten stung, wash the area with soap and water and use a cold compress.
- In the case of wasp stings, apple cider vinegar works best if you want to reduce pain and swelling.
Warning: Breathing difficulties, dizziness, and a swollen face or mouth are signs of a serious allergic reaction. In you notice any of these symptoms, call an ambulance immediately.
How do you usually keep bugs from biting? Feel free to give us your tips in the comments. And don’t forget to share this article with your family and friends!
Preview photo credit James Gathany / Wikimedia Commons, Oliver Arend / Wikimedia Commons, Maslesha / Wikimedia Commons, Daniel Wojcik / Wikimedia Commons