When it comes to bugs, they seem to know just how to get under – and on – our skin. Not only do they pester us outdoors, but sometimes make their way into our living spaces. That’s not even the worst of it – some can give us itchy bites leaving us scratching for days. Multiple different species of bugs can bite, and you can often inspect your bite mark to determine which bug happened to land on you. Once you get bit, you should determine what the culprit was – not only for the treatment of the bite but also for control measures you can take to prevent being bitten again.
Only female mosquitoes bite you. They have sharp mouthparts that puncture your skin to feed on your blood. While feeding they inject their saliva, which contains proteins that most people are allergic to - resulting in a red bump and itchiness.
Mosquito bites are perhaps the most well-known bug bites – as well as the deadliest. These insects can carry viruses, bacteria, and parasites in their saliva, transmitting the pathogens to the host. Mosquitoes are known carriers of deadly diseases like malaria, West Nile Virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, and some cases of encephalitis. Although somewhat rare in the United States, mosquitoes carrying these deadly diseases are very common in other parts of the world.
- Symptoms: Almost immediately after you get bitten, you might notice a round, puffy bump. Sometimes, there might be a red dot in the center of the bump. A few days after being bitten, you might notice a hard, itchy, red, or brown bump. Multiple bumps can show up at the same time. Not everyone has this reaction – sometimes small blisters appear, or even dark spots that resemble bruises.
- Treatment: Wash the affected area with soap and water. You can use an ice pack to reduce swelling and itching. There are over-the-counter topical solutions like anti-itch or antihistamine creams to help relieve that bothersome itch. Homemade remedies, like baking soda and water, can help reduce the itch response. Avoid touching/itching the area to prevent an infected bite.
Horse flies attack large mammals like horses, dogs, and humans. They are most active during the summer months. Horse fly bites often hurt, as they use their strong, sharp jaw to cut into the skin. Once through the skin, they start to feed on blood. There are small hooks on their mouthparts that they use to latch onto the skin while drinking blood, so it’s no wonder why these bites are so painful!
- Symptoms: Horse fly bites look more like a cut than a puncture hole. The skin around the bite will turn red and be surrounded by a raised area of skin. In some cases, you could even develop a bruise. These bites are particularly painful and take a longer period to heal compared to other insects.
- Treatment: Like other insect bites, make sure to wash the area around and the bite itself with soap and water. Cold compresses can help reduce swelling and pain. Horse fly bites are more likely to become infected than most other insect bites because of the way that these flies damage the skin. Avoid itching and touching the area.
No-See-Ums are flying insects that are hard to spot because of their tiny size. They are also known as biting midges, sand flies, and biting gnats. Oftentimes, you won’t even notice them until they bite you. Despite their size, these insects can leave bites that are painful and very itchy. Unfortunately, these biting insects are usually found in a swarm – which is why you might get bitten more than once by multiple no-see-ums.
- Symptoms: No-see-um bites appear a day or two after the initial bite. These are painful and can show up as a red multi-bite cluster. Over time, these bites often enlarge and look like welts that can extend up to 2 inches in diameter. The welts can take up to two weeks or more to start healing and disappear completely. In other parts of the world, these insects can transmit filarial worms to humans.
- Treatment: Clean the bites with soap and water. Try to avoid itching the bites to prevent infection and speed up the healing time. You can treat the area with over-the-counter medication, or even prescription topical solutions. Home remedies, like aloe vera, can help provide relief.
Deer flies are most active during the spring and can be found near lakes, swamps, and other bodies of water. They are commonly located in the Southwest region of the United States. Like horse flies, these insects have sharp mouths and strong jaws that can cause painful bites.
- Symptoms: These bites look like horse fly bites. The bite from this insect can cause red bumps and welts. Deer flies can transmit a rare bacterial disease known as rabbit fever (or tularemia), which causes skin ulcers, fevers, and headaches. This disease can be treated with antibiotics – but without treatment, it could be fatal.
- Treatment: Clean the area around the bite and the wound itself with soap and water. To reduce swelling and pain, apply ice to the area to help with the irritation. There are a variety of over-the-counter and after-bite creams that can help with inflammation, too.
Sand Fly Bites
Sand flies are another tiny, flying insect that can leave painful bites. Found in the southern regions of the United States, they breed and live in places with lots of moisture like decaying materials, moss, mud, and other damp places.
- Symptoms: Most sand fly bites leave red, itchy bumps around the ankles or feet. These bites can turn into blister-like areas and cause skin inflammation. Although rare, sand flies can transmit diseases to humans.
- Treatment: It’s important to keep the affected area clean so that an infection doesn’t occur. Applying different over-the-counter lotions to find itch and pain relief can help with the symptoms of the bite. Of course, icing can also reduce pain and swelling. If the bites turn into persistent sores, you should consult your doctor for further treatment.
Black flies are small insects that are also known as buffalo gnats. They appear in the late spring and early summer seasons. Found throughout the United States, they are located near bodies of water like creeks and rivers. Female black flies will bite during the daytime, unlike mosquitoes which are more active in the evenings.
- Symptoms: Typically biting around the head or the face, black flies leave small puncture wounds. The bites can leave lesions or cause the skin to get hot, red, and swollen. The bites are often painful. Other reactions might include headache, nausea, fever, and swollen lymph nodes which is referred to as “black fly fever.”
- Treatment: To keep the swelling down, apply ice. Applying topical medicine to the affected area can reduce pain and the possibility of infection. Be sure to wash the area often with soap and water and avoid touching and itching the area. Keeping the bite covered to prevent bacteria can help speed up recovery time. Black fly fever can be treated with over-the-counter medications, however, if symptoms last longer than a few days, consult your doctor.
Insect bites aren’t the only thing that you have to look out for! Stinging insects can leave some painful and itchy marks. Yellow jackets are thin wasps that create nests. Unlike bees, which yellow jackets are commonly mistaken for, these insects can sting you multiple times. As they sting, the yellow jacket pierces your skin with its stinger and injects a venom that causes pain.
- Symptoms: Yellow jacket/wasp stings are painful, and you can usually feel them as soon as you get stung. Inflammation and redness will appear and could linger for a few hours after being stung. Swelling and tenderness are also common reactions to these stings. Other symptoms, like coughing, tightness in the throat or trouble breathing, hives, passing out, or vomiting might be an indication of an allergic reaction that requires medical attention. Different people might experience different reactions to these stings.
- Treatment: Applying an ice pack or cold pack to the area of the sting can immediately help with inflammation and painful swelling. Taking Benadryl, or an over-the-counter antihistamine can help reduce symptoms of the bite and calm any slight allergic reactions. Keep the sting site clean and avoid touching/itching it as it heals. Ibuprofen and Tylenol can help with the pain. If you know you are allergic to yellow jacket stings, keep an epi-pen on you.
Keep Biting Insects Away
The best way to avoid getting bitten or stung is by taking precautions and using preventative measures when outdoors. At Dynatrap®, we carry a variety of indoor and outdoor solutions that target biting and stinging pests. Nothing ruins a nice evening outdoors like a mosquito bite, and nothing ruins a pool day like a yellow jacket. Let us know how you stay bug-bite-free on our Facebook Page! Sign up for our e-newsletter to get the latest and greatest deals and helpful advice delivered right to your inbox – you don’t want to miss out on staying insect-free!
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