What is it and how can I treat it?
In the UK, insect bites and stings are usually no more than a nuisance, causing a few red, itchy spots or lumps. However, in some people they can cause severe allergic reactions, so it’s important to know what to do if this happens
Common biting insects in the UK include bedbugs, flies, fleas, midges, mites, mosquitoes and ticks. Common stinging insects include bumblebees, honeybees, hornets and wasps.
When an insect or other small creature bites you, they make a tiny hole in your skin, often to get to the blood that they feed on. Stings contain chemicals that are very irritant to the skin and can trigger allergic reactions.
Bites from insects that feed on your blood, for example mosquitoes, often result in itchy spots or lumps. These don’t usually need any treatment and clear up within a day or so. The same generally applies for insect stings.
However, Urgent medical attention is needed for anyone who:
- shows signs of having a severe allergic reaction
- has been stung by several insects at the same time
- has been stung in the mouth or throat, where the swelling can interfere with breathing
Insect bites can be painful or itchy, but try not to scratch them as this can make the symptoms worse. Wash the affected area with soap and water and pat the skin dry.
You can relieve the pain by applying a cold compress (a cloth soaked in iced water).
Stings are typically painful and cause swelling of the skin, but aren’t usually dangerous unless you’re severely allergic to the venom. If a sting is still visible in the wound, remove it as soon as possible. You can scrape it out with a fingernail or a credit card. Don’t try to grab the sting between your fingers or tweezers as this can cause the venom sac to squeeze its contents into your skin.
For further information visit www.nhs.uk