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A Guide to Common Bug Bites (and What to Do If You've Been Bitten!)

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

To Benjamin Franklin’s two certainties of life ̶ death and taxes ̶ we should add a third: Bugs always arrive with the good weather.


For the record, I think insects are truly remarkable creatures. Not only are they an important source of food for some populations, but they also pollinate crops and wildflowers, and are recyclers and decomposers. They consume dead trees, animals and other waste that would accumulate endlessly without their help. Plus, they also produce silk, beeswax, and dyes.


Astonishing, if you think about it.


However, for all their beauty and usefulness, bugs and insects can also be the collective bane of our life, biting and stinging their way through the spring and summer.

With that I mind, what follows is a short primer on what the stings and bites of the most common bugs look like, and how to treat them.


Mosquito Bites


Mosquito bites produce small, round, puffy bumps that eventually become red, hard, swollen, and itchy. And chances are good that you’ll have more than one! Mosquito bites may swell due to toxins or allergic substances carried in the mosquito’s saliva. However, scratching the bites can cause them to rupture, which can result in infection (although this is actually rare).


You can take care of mosquito bites by washing them with soap and warm water. If you can, apply an ice pack to the bite site. You might also turn to over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, antihistamines, or topical anti-itch medications to keep the itching under control. If you happen to develop body aches, headaches, or a fever you should contact your doctor immediately.


Bed Bugs


If you’re bitten, bed bug bites will probably appear in lines or groups, usually on the hands, neck, or feet, and are red and swollen with dark-red centers. Like mosquitos, the itchiness is caused by an allergic reaction to the bite. Unfortunately, if you’re bitten you may develop very itchy blisters or hives at the bite site.


Generally speaking, bed bug bites get better on their own within one to two weeks. However, they will itch, in which case you can apply anti-itch cream or calamine lotion. Oral antihistamines can also help to reduce the itching and burning. Be sure to use a reliable bed bug spray to get rid of those nasty pests and, if needed, hire a pest control professional.


In rare cases, bed bug bites can trigger allergic reactions. Call your doctor right away if thi