An insect bite means you've been bitten by a mosquito, wasp, horsefly, hornet, ant, flea, tick or gadfly. A poisonous substance gets into your skin when these insects bite or sting. This can cause itching, a bump and/or pain. Insects bite or sting to protect themselves and/or to feed themselves or their young.
You can suffer from various different symptoms with an insect bite. These will differ per insect bite.
- You will hardly notice flea, ant or mosquito bites. A red, itchy bump will appear after the bite.
- Gadfly, bee or wasp stings can be very painful. There may be a large red bump where you’ve been stung.
- Horsefly bites can be very painful and you will get an itchy bump.
- A tick will bite into your skin and suck itself full of blood. It won’t release until it has completely engorged itself with blood. You should check for ticks after a walk in the woods, because some ticks carry Lyme disease. Please refer to the tick bite section for more information.
There are a few things you can do yourself if you’ve been bitten or stung by an insect. This will also differ per insect.
If you’ve been stung by a wasp or bee, you should:
- Remove the sting. You can either do this with your fingernail or with the blunt side of a knife. Do this carefully to make sure the pouch, which is attached to the stinger, doesn’t break off. You may otherwise end up with more pain or irritation.
- Place an ice pack on the sting site. Wrap a tea towel around the compress so it’s not too cold. Don’t have a compress? Something cold, like a bag of frozen vegetables, can certainly help too. Trying to suck out the poison won’t help, as this will already have spread.
If you’ve been bitten by a tick, you should:
- Remove the tick as soon as possible. You can read more about how to do this in the tick bite section.
If you have a bump, itching, or pain it may help to:
- Cool the bump with an ice pack. Wrap a tea towel around the compress so it’s not too cold.
- Place a cold and wet cloth on the area.
- Take some paracetamol if you are in severe pain. Look at the leaflet enclosed with the medication for dosage information.
- Buy some anti-itch medication from the chemist. There are various different creams and powders for this. One example is Azaron.
Contact your GP immediately if:
- You were stung in the tongue.
- You were stung in the mouth.
- You were stung in the throat.
- You become short of breath after being bitten or stung.
- You’re allergic to an insect bite and have previously suffered from additional symptoms. This can make you feel very unwell and an allergic reaction can be life-threatening in some cases.
- You develop a rash on your skin.
- Your skin swells up in a different place than where you were bitten or stung.
Call your GP for information and advice if:
- Your entire body itches after the sting or bite.
- You become unwell after visiting the tropics. There’s a chance you have been stung or bitten by a mosquito with, for example, malaria or another insect.
- You see a red circle develop around the tick bite.