Insect Bites and Stings
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Insect bites and stings come from a variety of bugs. A bite or sting may go unnoticed or lead to skin reactions. Most bites and stings can be safely treated at home.
For some people, insect bites or stings cause severe allergic reactions. They need medical care right away.
Insect bites and stings are caused by:
The risk of being bitten or stung by an insect is higher in those who:
Most insect bites and stings cause a skin reaction around the bite. The most common ones are:
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:
For those who seek care, the doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. The bite or sting site will be examined. The doctor will ask about the insect. This will help guide treatment.
Treatment often depends on how severe the reaction is to the sting or bite. Most insect bites or stings can be treated at home. Those with allergic reactions to certain insects need medical care.
Options may be:
Severe allergic reactions need medical care right away. This may include:
The risk of insect bites and stings may be reduced by:
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Allergy and Asthma Society of Ontario
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Anaphylaxis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/anaphylaxis Accessed April 1, 2021.
Bug bites and stings. Nemours Kid's Health website. Available at:
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Accessed April 1, 2021.
Hymenoptera sting allergy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hymenoptera-sting-allergy-14. Accessed April 1, 2021.
Insect bites and stings. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/insect-bites-and-stings. Accessed April 1, 2021.
Wilcock J, Etherington C, et al. Insect bites. BMJ. 2020 Aug 7;370:m2856.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 4/1/2021
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