As much as we try to avoid bugs and other pests, every once in a while some of them manage to get close and bite or sting. Bug bites come in many shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common - they are irritating!

For some people, the stings or bites of certain bugs can cause them to have a strong allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock. These people generally carry a dose of epinephrine to inject in the event they become bitten or stung.

On the other hand, for most people, bug bites are simply annoying with symptoms like redness, swelling, pain and itching. These bites can be cared for with home remedies, but some remedies work better on certain types of bites and stings. Learn how to care for the most common stings and bites.

Identify the Bug

The first step towards treating a bug bite is to identify the bug that bit or stung you. That is usually pretty easy, especially if a bug has been bothering you for a while.

Though they can be uncomfortable, most bug bites are fairly benign. The larger problem lies with any diseases or bacteria a bug may carry. Also, when we scratch that itchy bite, we might be contributing to secondary infection at the bite site! Common benign biting bugs include:

  • Mosquitoes
  • Most spiders
  • Most ticks
  • Flies
  • Fleas
  • Chiggers and other mites
  • Lice

Stinging insects like wasps, bees, ants, hornets and many spiders require much more care as they may include venom or cause further reactions. The likelihood that you’ll be bitten by a spider is rare, but if you are, cleanse the wound thoroughly and call a doctor. Check our list of harmful spiders to keep safe.

Treating the Bite

If you’ve been bitten, the first step is to get away from the bug. In the event you begin having any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest discomfort or tightness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness or light-headedness 
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Palpitations
  • Swelling of the face, eyes or tongue

In the event you do not experience any of the symptoms listed above, you can proceed with self-care of your bug bite. First off, you’ll want to reduce swelling and pain. Cover the bite with ice and take something for the pain. Children should not be given aspirin as it can occasionally cause side effects. Apply ice packs for 15-20 minutes once an hour for a few hours while elevating the bite to decrease swelling.

On the bite itself, there are a handful of home remedies and over-the-counter options that can soothe the effects of a bite. Calamine lotion and hydrocortisone ointments are very effective at reducing pain and itching, just like antihistamines.

Honey bees are the only insects that leave their stinger behind, so it’s important to remove them if you’ve been stung by honey bees. You can brush them out of the wound with your finger nail, the edge of a credit card or something similar. Never pull them out with your fingers or tweezers. Doing so will squeeze more venom into your body. Once you’ve removed the stinger, spray anesthetic that contains benzocaine to help relieve the pain.

For any bite from a stinging insect or spider, you should wash the wound with mild soap and cool water. Disinfecting the wound is especially important for mosquito bites and bee stings, so be thorough.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Avoiding a bug bite is often the simplest way to treat any bug bite. Most bugs, other than chronic pests like mosquitoes and deer flies, will only bite when provoked or agitated. Bees, ants, wasps and spiders can typically be avoided. But, if you are stung or bitten, the best remedies are very similar to most other injuries: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation [RICE]. Light pressure can help soothe a bug bite, but ice and elevation will do most of the work.