Bug Bites: Types, Symptoms, and Management

Research Based
Medically reviewed by - Dr Lara Mokhtar, MD Written by - Dr. Shaheen Shah


What is Bug bite ?

A bug bite occurs ,when in order to feed, a bug such as a mosquito uses its mouthparts to bite and pierce a person’s skin.

Bugs are small insects(class: Insecta; order: Hemiptera) with long antennae, dark wings and piercing mouth parts (stylets) to draw blood or saps from animals or plants. However, all bugs are insects, but all insects may not be bugs. Also, some insects with bug names, such as June bugs; ladybugs are not true bugs.

Most bug bites are not dangerous, and they heal on their own, but some are dangerous and can cause severe allergic reactions in the body.

A bug bite occurs ,when in order to feed, a bug such as a mosquito uses its mouthparts to bite and pierce a person's skin.


Common symptoms

Common symptoms of bug bites

  • Bug bites emerge in a group or one line
  • Skin bulging with redness
  • Swellings
  • Itchy blisters
  • Itchy rash
  • Pain
  • Burning sensation
  • Numbness in the affected area

Types of bug bites

  • Fly bites
  • Sandfly bites
  • Flea bite
  • Mosquito bites
  • Bedbug bites
  • Chigger bites
  • Lice bites
  • Tick bites
  • Scabies
  • Spider bites
  • Brown recluse spider bite
  • Black widow spider bite
  • Horsefly bites
  • Deer fly bites 1Types of bug bites| Researched based study from

Specific symptoms of different bug bites

Fly bites (deer flies, black flies etc.)

  • Itchy painful rashes
  • Red swelling, and some might bleed
  • Primarily harmless and some lead to rigorous allergic reactions

Sand-fly bites

  • Red blisters appear alone or in groups
  • Bites are itchy and painful
  • Sandfly bites may transmit parasitic infection viz; cutaneous leishmaniasis

Flea bite

  • Red bumps
  • Appear in line and groups
  • Small size bump with reddish circles surrounding it
  • Flea often bites in the armpits, knees or around the ankles

Mosquito bites

  • The small puffy spot that is isolated from the surrounding skin
  • Painless
  • Swollen, stiff and itchy

Bedbug bites

  • Red bumps appear in lines or groups( three or more)
  • Very itchy rash at the bite site
  • Swollen and not very painful
  • Nodes can have red marks at their center
  • Bites may appear in uncovered body parts that touch the bed during the night, such as the neck, arms and legs.

Chigger bites

  • Bites appear as red bumps and blisters
  • Itchy painful rashes
  • Bites appear in skin areas where clothing is tight fitting
  • Bites usually occur near the leg area as the chigger hop from the grass area
  • Chigger bites causes extreme discomfort which may last for around 14 days

Head lice bite

  • Head lice (parasitic lice) feed on the blood in the head area
  • Bites are very itchy
  • Red spots appear in the scalp area
  • Difficulty in sleeping due to biting in the head area
  • Continuous scratching causes swelling and inflammation in the head

Tick bites

  • Swelling at the bitten area
  • Painful rash
  • Burning sensation
  • Difficult breathing
  • Pimple and boil
  • Some bites appear as red spots
  • Bites appear in armpits, the back of knees, and hairlines
  • Tick bites may transmit diseases such as anaplasmosis (a bacterial disease) and Lyme disease (a disease caused by borellia bacteria)


  • Small mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) cause a skin infection called scabies
  • Symptoms may take about six weeks to show up
  • Red Rash may appear as small pimples
  • Extremely itchy skin at night time
  • Continuous scratching causes inflammation of the skin
  • The mites live and lay eggs on the skin’s surface. These mites can remain on the skin surface for several months 2Symptoms of bug bites| Researched based study from

Spider bites

  • Two tiny piercing marks on the skin
  • Swelling and redness in the bitten area
  • Mild pain like a bee sting
  • Itching
  • Raised pustule may appear at the bitten site
  • Most spider bites are harmless, but bites from dangerous spiders such as brown recluse spider; black widow spider needs immediate medical attention.

Brown recluse spider bite

  • Redness with white pimple at the central part of the bitten area
  • Pain may be moderate to severe after hours(2 to 8) of spider bite
  • Itchy at the bitten site
  • In rare cases, the following symptoms may appear
  • Body pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Kidney malfunctioning

Black widow spider bite

  • Swelling, severe pain and redness in the bitten area
  • Muscles pain
  • Burning sensation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Breathing problem
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Excess sweating
  • Extreme weakness
  • Tremors
  • Black widow spider bite requires urgent medical attention.

Horsefly bites

  • Redness, pain and swelling in the bitten area
  • Itchiness
  • Burning sensation
  • In rare cases, some people may experience the following symptoms
  • Rash on other body parts
  • Difficult breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weakness

Deer fly bites

  • Painful bites
  • Swelling
  • Bites may sometimes transmit bacterial disease viz; tularemia


Reasons for bug bite symptoms

The fluid injected into our body through the piercing mouth parts causes our immune system to respond against it, which is the probable reason for redness and swelling in the bitten area.

However, a person sensitive to bug bites may develop fatal allergic reactions (anaphylactic shock), which need immediate medical attention.


Management of bug bites

  • Wash the bug bite area with soap and water
  • Apply an ice pack to the bitten area to reduce swelling and to relieves the itchiness
  • For itching bites, apply calamine lotion or any anti-itch cream
  • For painful bites, one can take pain relievers such as ibuprofen. However, it is always recommendable to consult a dermatologist for the correct dose.
  • Avoid scratching the bitten area to prevent infection
  • One can take oral antihistamines to relieve the allergic reaction
  • In case of flea bites, one can apply hydrocortisone cream to avoid itching
  • Oral and topical antihistamines can be used for fly bites.
  • For head lice, medicated shampoos should be used. Thorough and repeated combing of the hair after hair wash can remove the head lice easily.
  • Head lice-infected persons should not share their clothing and always wash it in hot water to prevent others from getting infected.
  • Ticks should be removed from the skin area as soon as we observe them.
  • Regularly checking oneself, our children, and our pets for any ticks attached to the skin and adequately removing them should be ensured.
  • Non-poisonous spider bites can be treated at home by washing the affected area with soap water and an ice pack to lessen swelling and pain. Painkillers and antihistamines can also be used if needed.


Complication of bug bite

  • Anaphylaxis reaction (severe allergic reaction)
  • Fever
  • Excess swelling of the face and mouth
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Cellulitis(bacterial skin infection which causes pain and swelling)

Home Remedies

Home remedies to treat Bug bites.

Home remedies to treat bug bites

  • Ice

Gel-filled ice cubes can be kept as first aid at home against bug bites. The ice cubes should be covered with a small cloth to give maximum comfort to the bitten area and prevent excess chilling.

  • Vinegar

When applied to the bitten site, vinegar (an acetic acid solution) acts as an antiseptic to prevent the growth of infectious organisms. It also reduces swelling and burning sensation. Diluting vinegar in warm water and soaking the affected area for around 20 minutes can relieve discomfort.

  • Baking soda

A paste made from baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and water can be applied to the affected bug bite areas to relieve itching and irritation.

  • Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. The cooling sensation of the diluted peppermint oil (peppermint oil mixed with water) gives maximum relief from the burning sensation and itching of bug bite areas.

  • Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and thus helps reduce swelling and itching of bug bite areas.

  • Oatmeal

Oatmeal has antioxidant properties and can boost the immune system to fight infections. A paste of oatmeal in water can be applied to the bite areas to relieve itches and inflammation.

  • Toothpaste

Mint-flavored toothpaste can be applied to the bug bite areas to get immediate relief from burning sensation, itching and discomfort.

  • Plantain leaves

Plantain leaf is a herb having anti-inflammatory properties. Crushed plantain leaves can be applied to the affected areas to relieve swelling and itching.

  • Lavender oil

Lavender oil has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It can relieve pain, itches, and inflammation and help the body fight infection.

  • Achinacea liquid extract

Achinacea liquid extract has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can boost our immune system against infection and reduce pain, swelling and itching.


Preventive measures for bug bites

Proper clothing

  • One should wear proper clothing during night outings or forest area visits.
  • People should wear long sleeves and whole-body-covered clothes to prevent bug bites. Moreover, shirts should be pinned with pants, and socks should be pulled up to the pants to avoid any chance of entering the bugs.
  • The outer linings of clothing can be previously treated with insect-repellent substances such as permethrin and dried for at least 120 minutes before using it to minimize bug attacks.

Using insect-repulsive substances

  • One should use insect repellent containing around 30% diethyltoluamide (an influential component in insect repellents) on uncovered body areas and clothing to prevent bug bites. In the face area, sunscreen should be allowed to dry properly before applying insect repellent.

Use of mosquito nets

  • The use of mosquito nets is a must during the night times whether sleeping indoors or outdoors.
  • The mosquito net should be pyrethroid insecticide treated to enhance bug protection.

Paying mindful of any mosquito outbreaks

  • People should remain aware of mosquito outbreaks by staying up-to-date with the current news website and other electronic media.
  • People should take the necessary precautions while traveling during the episode.
Disclaimer: The user acknowledges that this article's information is being offered for informational purposes only. Every attempt has been made to guarantee that the article is informational and correct. If they have any doubts or questions about their health, we firmly advise our readers to visit a doctor or other healthcare professional.

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