Treating an Insect Bite

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:

  • Wash the bite with warm, soapy water, and then apply antibiotic ointment to reduce the possibility of infection.
  • If the insect bite itches, cover it with calamine lotion or an antihistamine cream.
  • To relieve itching of a mosquito bite, wet the bite with water, then rub an aspirin tablet over it. Aspirin has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce swelling. But if you are allergic to aspirin, do not attempt.
  • To neutralize the formic acid from the insect, bathe the bite in a paste of water and baking soda for twenty minutes.
  • Salt can also neutralize insect bites. Make a paste of water and dissolved salt and apply it to the affected area.

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.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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