Treating Common Bug Bites

Health Writer

It's summertime and that means bug bites. For the most part, these bites are simply an annoyance and don't cause any serious health problems. However, some insects do carry disease. The following provides some tips on how to treat the bites and possible symptoms of a more serious condition.


Mosquito bites  appear as a pink or red bump. They are itchy, sometimes intensely so. Some people can develop hives.

Home Remedies

  • Wash the area with soap and water, and apply cold compresses to reduce the itching.
  • Mix baking soda with water to form a paste and apply to the affected area. Once dry, brush it off.
  • Apply white vinegar directly to the bite area.
  • Apply over-the-counter anti-itch creams.
  • Avoid scratching, as the area could become infected.
  • For young children, place a sock or knit glove over the hands to prevent scratching.
  • For hives, you can take antihistamines, such as Benadryl.

Mosquitos can carry the West Nile virus. Symptoms include fever, body aches, headache, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms typically occur between three and 14 days after being bitten. If you develop these symptoms, contact your doctor.

Bees and Wasps

These stings usually cause a red welt on the skin with a burning sensation. You should remove the stinger if you see it in the bite. Scrape your skin with the edge of a credit card to lift the stinger out. Do not pinch the stinger, as this can push the venom into the bite area and cause a more severe reaction.

Home remedies

  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Remove jewelry from the area to avoid it tightening if the area swells.
  • Elevate the area if the bite is on the leg or arm.
  • Use ice packs, 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off, to reduce swelling.
  • Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, to reduce swelling.
  • If you develop hives, take an antihistamine, such as Benadryl.
  • For stings that cause extreme pain, contact your doctor.

Some people develop severe allergic reactions, known as anaphylaxis, from bee or wasp stings. Symptoms include swelling of the throat and tongue, difficulty breathing and nausea. Call 911 if you develop these symptoms.


Common household flies do not bite humans, however, some flies do. The bites cause red bumps, itchiness and pain. Bites from horseflies and deer flies can cause bleeding.

Home remedies

  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Use ice to reduce pain and itchiness.
  • Use an over-the-counter bite relief formula that contains ammonia for itch and pain.
  • Avoid scratching.

Fire Ants

The bites cause a burning sensation, which is followed by small red, itchy bumps. These turn into fluid-filled blisters.

Home remedies

  • Clean area with soap and water.
  • Use hydrocortisone or calamine lotion to reduce itchiness.
  • Call your doctor if you develop a fever or if the redness worsens.

Rarely, people can develop an anaphylactic reaction to fire ant bites. You should call 911 if you develop an anaphylactic reaction.


Tick bites are noticeable because the tick bites and then stays on your skin. They are usually painless, but you might have some itching or redness after removing the tick.

Home remedies

  • Remove the tick with tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to your skin as you can and pull straight out, being careful not to squish the body as this will force the tick's saliva into the bite wound, which increases your risk of developing a disease. Place the tick in a container with rubbing alcohol to kill it. Keep the tick in alcohol in case you develop complications.
  • Once you have removed the tick, wash the area with soap and water.

Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If you develop symptoms such as a bulls-eye sore or have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, aches or chills, contact your doctor. If you still have the tick, bring it with you to the doctor to help identify it.


Spider bites might appear as a small bump. They can also cause muscle cramps, chest pain, severe swelling and nausea.

Home remedies

  • Apply ice for 20 minutes every few hours.
  • Elevate the area where the bite is.
  • Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce pain.

For severe pain or swelling, contact your doctor or go to the emergency room.