Insect Bites: Recognise, Identify, Prevent

Your knowledge of insect bites could literally be the reason why you help save a life or even your own life.

Quite a number of insects possess venom that can have very negative impacts on human health; some with the potential of causing death. However, in most cases, the first step to finding a quick solution is being able to identify the insect that did the biting.

Insects have unique mouthparts depending on the species or family and this makes identification a whole lot easier.

Upon detecting the exact insect culprit, your problem is half-solved.

How to Recognise an Insect Bite

Recognising a bug bite is not half as hard as you think it might be. But this should not be a reason to panic, even though it is a creepy experience, it just might be nothing.

Most insect bites are pretty harmless and heal very quickly. However, bugs such as wasps, fire ants, bees, and hornets could be very painful or even bring about allergic reactions.

In other cases such as bites from poisonous spiders, immediate medical attention is required.

To confirm that you have indeed been bitten by an insect, the symptoms are what you should look out for. Generally, insect bites result in itching, burning or red, painful bumps. In other cases, you may notice welts or blisters.

Going by the area affected, they are usually localised and do not cause bleeding in most cases. Experiencing slight swelling especially when you scratch or pinch the spot isn’t a strange occurrence either.

Most insects have very tiny mouth-parts which imply that you may not see any marks. For insects that pierce the skin, you may notice a tiny drop of blood pooling around the region where you have been bitten.

The bottom line is that the region affected is usually very minute and may be difficult to detect in the absence of any bleeding or strange sensations.

Identifying Common Insect Bites

Some insect bites are pretty easy to identify right away. In most scenarios, these bites typically come from insects that are relatively common.

1. Mosquito Bites

Mosquito bites typically appear as a round red or pink skin bump which is usually itchy.

These bites do not pose any immediate danger but may sometimes lead to serious illnesses such as the West Nile virus, Zika virus and more commonly known, Malaria.

Mosquito bites are pretty easy to identify and may result in a little blood pooling on the spot where the biting took place.

2. Bee Stings

Bee stings cause an instant, sharp pain that may persist for some minutes before toning down to a dull ache.

The region where the sting took place may appear as a red skin bump with white. Bee sting symptoms can vary a lot – While some of us get just a bit of itching and painful discomfort, for some, this may include oedema, extreme swelling in the area bitten or the entire body if they experience an immune response.

The swelling may affect your lungs and throat, this type of allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis. If you experience this, you should seek medical attention immediately. 

3. Spider Bites

Spider bites in most cases are not poisonous and may only result in symptoms like swelling, red skin or minor pain at the bite site.

 However, certain spider bites could be a major emergency. If you experience allergic reactions such as breathing problems, tightness in the chest, facial swellings or swallowing difficulties, you need immediate medical attention.

Spider bites can easily be infected with tetanus, it is, therefore, essential that you get regular tetanus shots. Bites from poisonous spiders like the brown recluse or the black widow should be taken very seriously as they may cause extreme reactions.

The brown recluse typically inhabits unfrequented areas and its bite feels like a small sting which is immediately followed with sharp pain. After about 4-8 hours, the area becomes a lot more painful and appears a blister or bruise with the area around it somewhat blue-purple.

Common symptoms include itching, fever, sweating, chills, and nausea. In other people, it may cause a serious reaction that can result in seizures, kidney failure or even coma.

The black widow can also cause a very severe reaction. Its bite can be identified with the two puncture marks that it leaves. While the bite may not be painful at first, the area would swell and become very painful about 30 to 40 minutes after.

 In eight hours, muscle pain and rigidity, nausea and vomiting, stomach and back pain, as well as breathing difficulties are typical of this spider’s bite.

Therefore, to be on the safe side, getting immediate medical attention after any spider bite is essential.

How to Prevent Insect Bites

While you cannot control the location of insects, especially outdoors, you can prevent them from biting you. Here are some precautions that you can take:

  • Do not expose skin: insects are particularly active at times such as sunrise or sunset. If you are outdoors at those times, you should protect your skin by wearing trousers and long sleeves.
  • Insect repellent: The application of insect repellent should be on the exposed parts of your skin. You should look out for insect repellents that have the component diethyltoluamide (DEET); it is deemed the most effective.
  • Avoid products with strong perfumes: products with strong perfumes such as shampoos, soaps, and deodorants attract insects. Therefore, avoiding them is a great idea.
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