Written by April Reinhardt (last updated September 5, 2008)
Insect bites happen quickly, and sometimes you don't even realize you've been bitten until hours after the fact. Unlike insect stings, bites such as from fleas, mosquitoes, and mites most often cause itching, rather than pain. Insects bite humans and animals because they feed on blood and, during the bite process they inject formic acid which causes skin reactions, most times resulting in swelling and redness.
If you are around insects, itching, swelling, and sometimes pain indicate that you may have been bitten by one. Here are a few simple things you can do immediately to treat insect bites:
Tick bites require special attention. If the tick is still in place, carefully pull the tick from the skin, making sure to extract the head along with the body. Meticulously wash the bite site with warm, soapy water, and then apply antiseptic cream. Second only to mosquitoes as carriers of human disease, ticks carry both toxic and infectious diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Characteristics of Lyme disease are a reddish bulls-eye rash, accompanied by lethargy, general aches and pains, and fever. If you remove a tick from your skin and notice a rash or develop a fever, seek immediate medical attention. Antibiotics are the primary treatment for Lyme disease. Left untreated, Lyme disease can cause cardiac problems, and sometimes death.
Spider bites vary from mild to severe, depending upon the spider. Although 98% of spider bites are harmless, in rare instances a spider's venom may cause skin cell decay, systemic toxicity, and even death. If you suspect that you have been bitten by a highly venomous spider such as the Australian funnel-web spider, widow spiders, or the Brazilian wandering spider, do not delay in seeking emergency medical treatment.
As with any insect bite, if you develop a severe allergic reaction, go to the nearest emergency medical facility for immediate treatment.
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