Nothing can ruin a fun day outside like a bug bite. No matter your age, it can be difficult to know the right way to deal with the many possible types of bites and when to schedule a dermatologist visit for bug bites.
Here is a guide on common types of bug bites and what you need to know about treating them.
Bug Bite Overview
Most bugs are relatively harmless to humans and only cause pain and discomfort. However, some venomous bugs can cause serious pain and lead to allergic reactions and infections. The type of bugs around you depends on your climate and location because some bugs only live in certain parts of the country.
Here are seven common types of bug bites, their symptoms, and the best treatment options:
We get it. Insects and their bites aren’t very fun to look at. Simply hover over or tap and hold an image to hide it.
Mosquito bites are among the most common and what most people think of when they think about bug bites. Mosquitos love to congregate near standing water, so being by a pond, pool, or even a bird bath can make you more susceptible to mosquito bites.
Mosquito bites are typically small round bumps that itch and appear soon after the bite happens. Mosquito bites can clump in the same area and get very red and puffy. Soon after the bite, they’ll also start to get hard.
To treat a mosquito bite, start by cleaning the bite or sting quickly to remove any excess mosquito saliva with soap and warm water. Apply a topical hydrocortisone or itch cream to lessen the sting. As much as possible, try to avoid scratching mosquito bites because it makes them take longer to heal and could break the skin. Some mosquitos carry diseases, so watch for any abnormal symptoms that could signal a larger issue.
Should you see a dermatologist for a mosquito bite? In most cases, no. As long as you avoid scratching the bites and breaking the skin, there won’t be a lasting impact to your skin.
Bees aren’t naturally aggressive and will typically only sting people when threatened. For most people, bee stings are uncomfortable but not dangerous. However, if you’re allergic to bees or their toxins, bee stings can become a much larger issue.
In most cases, a bee sting looks like a small pink or red welt that starts to swell. You may also be able to see a small white dot in the center from the stinger. Bee stings can be slightly itchy and typically swell for the next one to two days.
The most important treatment for a honey bee sting is to remove the stinger right away by scraping or brushing it out. Apply ice to the sting area to reduce swelling, and take an antihistamine and pain reliever to relieve inflammation and pain. Natural solutions, such as baking soda paste, toothpaste, or honey, can be applied to the sting to slow swelling. Keep an eye on the sting for any signs of allergic reactions like trouble breathing or hives.
Should you see a dermatologist for a bee sting? If you start having any symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a rash, hives, fever, or trouble breathing you may want to see a doctor. But most bites only bring minor pain and swelling and can be treated at home.
Although most ants aren’t a threat to humans, they defend themselves by biting people when they feel threatened. Most ant bites are relatively mild, but the formic acid ants release into the skin can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
There are thousands of types of ants, but most ant bites have similar appearance. They typically look like a small pimple with a red, raised bump and may start to swell slightly. Ant bites can be very itchy and uncomfortable. Bites from ants that are more dangerous tend to be more painful, have increased swelling, and may start to blister.
To treat an ant bite, clean the area with soap and water and apply a topical itch cream. If a blister starts to form, leave it alone until it goes away. Scratching the blister could break the skin and lead to infection.
Should you see a dermatologist for an ant bite? In most cases, only if you’re experiencing an allergic reaction with hives, nausea, abdominal pain, or trouble breathing.
There are hundreds of types of spiders, each with their own unique bites. Some spiders are venomous with bites that can cause serious medical issues. But the majority of spider bites are relatively safe and only cause minor discomfort.
Spider bites tend to be smaller than other bug bites and most commonly are itchy red bumps.
To treat a spider bite, start by cleaning the bite area. If it starts to swell, put an ice pack on the affected area for 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off, and elevate the bite. A topical or ingested pain medicine can help with pain and swelling. Keep an eye out for any vomiting or signs of infection, which could signal that it was a venomous spider bite. Most non-venomous bites heal in about a week.
Should you see a dermatologist for a spider bite? Only if you’ve been bitten by a venomous spider like a black widow or a brown recluse spider. These bites will swell very quickly, be painful, and cause a headache, chills, a fever, and trouble breathing. In this case, see a doctor right away for treatment.
Bedbugs are tiny, flat insects that are reddish-brown and shaped like ovals. Bedbugs feed on the blood of humans and animals and most commonly live in beds, furniture, and other soft surfaces.
Bedbug bites don’t show up right away, so it can be a few days after the bite that you start seeing symptoms. When the bites become obvious, they are typically red with a dark spot in the center. Bedbug bites itch and burn and often swell to look like blisters. They often appear in lines or groups of multiple bites in the same area, commonly on the arms or shoulders.
Start by cleaning the affected area with soap and warm water and applying an antihistamine or anti-itch cream. A pain reliever can lessen the pain and swelling. In most cases, bedbug bites start to feel better in one to two weeks.
Should you see a dermatologist for bedbug bites? Most commonly, no. If your bites aren’t improving and get infected, visit the doctor for prescription treatments. But in all other cases, over-the-counter treatments work well.
Horseflies look like very large flies and are known for having a painful bite. Its large jaw is shaped like scissors and can be very painful going into the skin.
Horsefly bites have a unique appearance. The top is typically white with a few black lines, and the bottom is black. The area around the bite will also likely start to swell and may cause a bruise.
Treat a horsefly bite by immediately cleaning the bite area with soap and water. Apply an antihistamine and take pain medicine to reduce the swelling and discomfort. Most horsefly bites clear up on their own within a few days. Keep an eye out for symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as pus or a fever.
Should you see a dermatologist for a horsefly bite? If the bite hasn’t healed within a week and seems to be getting worse, see a doctor.
Most tick bites are small and only bring minor discomfort. But some ticks carry Lyme disease, which is connected to many health conditions. Ticks prefer warm parts of the body, so their bites are common around the armpits, hair, waist, or back of the knees. Ticks can remain attached to the skin for up to 10 days after biting a human.
Tick bites look similar to mosquito bites with small, red bumps that are itchy and may start to swell. A sign of Lyme disease is a bullseye rash around the bite that starts to develop after a few days. To treat a tick bite, quickly remove the tick using tweezers and a firm upward motion. Clean the bite area with soap and warm water.
Should you see a dermatologist for a tick bite? Only if you develop difficulty breathing, an extreme headache, or heart palpitations. In that case, call a doctor for emergency help.
Bug Bite Prevention
Taking precautionary steps can lessen the chances of bug bites occurring. Avoid places where bugs thrive, such as marshy areas or stagnant water.
Dress in thin, lightweight clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. If you’re going to be outside, apply bug repellant. DEET is the most powerful ingredient in insect repellant and can be incredibly effective at preventing bites, especially if you are near water. Pay attention to the bugs around you so you can identify and treat a bite as soon as it happens.
Bug bites are part of life, but knowing how each type of common bite looks and feels, you can more quickly get the right treatment. Knowledge is power, and when it comes to bug bites, knowledge also relieves pain.