Although most bug bites and stings are harmless, some can be dangerous. This is especially true if you are allergic to the bug’s venom, or if the bug is carrying a disease.
In the United States, it’s common to experience a bite or sting from the following types of bugs:
- Biting flies
- Bees, wasps and hornets
- Fire ants
Most bug bites and stings can be safely treated at home with topical medication, such as hydrocortisone cream or ointment, or an oral antihistamine to reduce the itch. However, sometimes a bug bite or sting could turn into something serious – particularly if you have been bitten or stung by many insects at the same time.
Go to the emergency room immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after a bug bite or sting:
- Difficulty breathing
- The sensation that your throat is closing
- Swollen lips, tongue or face
- Chest pain
- A racing heartbeat that lasts more than a few minutes
- A headache
- A red, donut-shaped rash that develops after a tick bite: This could be a sign of Lyme disease, which should be treated with antibiotics.
- A fever with a red or black, spotty rash that spreads: This could be a sign of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a bacterial infection carried by ticks, which should be treated immediately.
Although most bug bites and stings do not turn into a severe or even fatal illness like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms. If you feel tired all the time, you have a headache, fever or body aches, or you develop a rash after a bug bite, see a board-certified dermatologist immediately.