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Bug Bites and Stings

Bug bites and stings facts*

*Bug bites and stings facts medically edited by: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

  • Although many bug bites are relatively harmless, there are some that can lead to debilitating or deadly diseases
  • Keep insects away by using structures such as screens and netting; wear long sleeve shirts and long pants when possible, and use insect repellents that contain DEET.
  • Insect repellent should be applied after sunscreen and the repellent should not contain more than 10% DEET; follow the insect repellent label instructions, especially those instructions suggested for children.
  • You can remove a bee sting by scraping it in a side to side motion with a straight edge object like a credit card; if you find a tick on yourself or your child, remove it with tweezers and cleanse the area with antiseptic fluid or cream
  • Itching and pain from bites and stings can be treated with topical analgesics, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.
  • Medical attention is needed for bites and stings that cause allergic reactions, especially anaphylaxis (for example, bee or wasp stings), or for symptoms of diseases that are transmitted by vectors like mosquitoes or ticks or if the bite site becomes infected.
  • References provided allow readers to get more information about various bug bites and stings.

Bug bites and stings introduction

Warm weather makes it easier to spend more time outdoors, but it also brings out the bugs. Ticks are usually harmless. But a tick bite can lead to Lyme disease, which is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are transmitted to people by the black-legged deer tick, which is about the size of a pinhead and usually lives on deer. Infected ticks can also cause other diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Another insect-borne illness, West Nile virus, is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and usually produces mild symptoms in healthy people. But the illness can be serious for older people and those with compromised immune systems.

Most reactions to bees and other stinging insects are mild, but severe allergic reactions can be deadly. An allergic reaction can occur even if a person has been stung before with no complications.

Here are tips for preventing and treating bites and stings.


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