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The Most Common Bug Bites & How to Treat Them

Summer weather invites more people to spend time outside. Unfortunately, it can also invite more opportunity for bug bites, stings, and other mishaps. Read along as we explore what some of the most common types of bites and stings are in our area, how to treat bug bites and stings, as well as how you can lower your chances for getting bitten.

The Top 3 Types of Bites/Stings

The most common types of bug bites and stings in our area are:

  1. Mosquito bites
  2. Tick bites
  3. Bee/Wasp stings

Treatment for Bug Bites & Stings

Mosquito Bites

Mosquito bites are, perhaps, the most common type of bug bite that we receive, and it’s usually more of a nuisance. However, many viral illnesses are spread by mosquito bites, especially if bitten while travelling internationally.  Your PCP and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website are usually great sources of information in how you can prevent infections and stay healthy while traveling.

Treating Mosquito Bites

  • Wash mosquito bites with soap/water.
  • Apply hydrocortisone 1% cream for itching.
  • Ice the area to decrease itching/swelling.
  • Keep nails clean/short to prevent introducing infection by scratching.
  • If itching severe, you can use Zyrtec, Claritin or Benadryl.

Bee & Wasp Stings

Treating Bee/Wasp Stings

After a bee or wasp sting, you should:

  • Remove the stinger from your skin as soon as possible.
  • Wash area with soap and water.
  • Treat local irritation/redness/swelling/itching at the site with a cold compress, elevation if on extremity.
  • Use ibuprofen for pain, Zyrtec and Benadryl for swelling/itching as needed.

If swelling is very large or if symptoms don’t start improving over the next 48 hours (as most reactions should), should visit your primary care physician or urgent care.

Head to the Emergency Room, or Call 9-1-1 If…

  • You develop symptoms of anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction), such as generalized hives, tongue/lip swelling, hoarseness, vomiting, dizziness, or shortness of breath/wheezing
  • Symptoms are severe or you pass out

If you have had a severe reaction to a sting before, make sure to discuss this with your primary care physician or allergist to make a plan for prevention/treatment in the future.

Tick Bites

Treating Tick Bites

  • Remove the tick with tweezers as soon as possible trying your best to avoid twisting or crushing the tick.
  • Wash area with soap and water.
  • Watch the area for development of a bullseye rash in the following 30 days.

Note what the tick looks like (color, white spot, size, engorgement). Why? Different ticks carry different infections, and this information is helpful for diagnosis.  Presently, North Carolina does not have a very high rate of Lyme disease, therefore preventative treatment for Lyme disease is not recommended. The CDC has excellent information on its website about tick bites and tick-borne illnesses.

Mosquito bite

Preventing Mosquito & Tick Bites

The most effective mosquito and tick prevention is wearing long sleeves, pants tucked into socks when in high risk areas (example: ares where there is standing water). You may also use permethrin-treated clothing, and/or DEET or picaridin repellents on exposed arms/legs.  If using repellents on children, it is very important to wash their hands after application to avoid ingestion.

Everyone should check themselves and their children for attached ticks after spending time outdoors, as the best prevention is early removal of attached ticks.


About Aleksandra (Sasha) Avery, MD

Dr. Aleksandra (Sasha) Avery is a Primary Care Physician at WakeMed Physician Practices, Garner Primary Care. Her clinical interests include: chronic disease management in adults and pediatric and adolescent outpatient care.

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