Bug Bites 101

Bugs, bugs, they’re everywhere! But they don’t have to make your summer bite.

It’s summer and you’re probably spending more time outdoors with these often small creatures that can sting and bite at a moment’s notice. Read on to learn what you can do to recognize when a bug bite or sting requires more care than you can give at home.

The Bug, Bite Chart

There are thousands of varieties of insects in our world, but there are a few that are more likely than others to bite or sting: bees, ticks, and spiders. Use the chart below to learn what these bites or stings look like, what you should do, and when it’s an emergency.

What does it look like? How should I take care of it? When is it an emergency?
Bees A red bump about the size of a pea on the skin that often has a small hole in the middle where the stinger is (or was). Remove the stinger as soon as possible; wash the site of the sting with soap and water; periodically apply ice or a cool cloth to relieve pain for up to 24 hours or give ibuprofen; apply a paste of baking soda and water to relieve itching. Get help right away if the bee stings you or your loved one in the mouth; if swelling or pain persists for more than three days; or if a person experiences difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness, or swelling of the lips, tongue, or face.
Ticks Often looks like a red rash that sometimes has a little bull’s eye in the center. The bull’s eye mark may take up to a week to appear. Remove the tick by grabbing it as close to the head as possible with fine-tipped tweezers and pull it straight out; do not use petroleum jelly or a match to kill and remove the tick; kill it by putting it in a jar of alcohol but keep it in case your physician wants to see it; wash the site of the bite with soap and water; swab the site of the bite with alcohol. Call your physician if you think the tick has been in the skin for more than 24 hours, if part of the tick remains in the skin, the bite area looks infected, or if you or your loved one experiences fever, headache, fatigue, or a stiff neck after a tick bite.
Spiders The site of the bite may be red, slightly swollen, and sometimes cause blisters to occur. Wash the area carefully with soap and water two to three times a day until the skin is healed; apply cold compresses; give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain; elevate the area to slow to spread of venom. There are two poisonous spiders in the United States: the brown recluse and the black widow. Emergency care is required if you suspect one of these spiders bit you or your loved one. Also, seek help if a deep purple area develops around the bite site, you experience swelling in the face or mouth, have difficulty breathing, chest tightness, dizziness, abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting.

Don’t Bug Me!

Take these simple steps to protect yourself and your children from insect stings and bug bites.

  • Avoid walking barefoot in the grass.
  • Try not to use scented soaps, perfumes, or hair spray.
  • Ensure all outside garbage cans have tight-fitting lids.
  • Stay away from stagnant pools of water.
  • Cover food when eating outdoors.
  • Encourage children to wear long pants and long sleeves when playing in wooded areas.
  • Use insect repellent with 10 to 30 percent DEET protection (for children age 2 and up).
  • check your skin—especially the scalp, behind the ears, neck, under the arms, and the groin—after being outside when tick and spider bites may be a threat.
  • Keep garages, attics, and woodpiles free of spider webs.
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