Chigger Bites

Bug bites are irritating, and some can be harmful. Learn to identify the type of bug bite and when to seek emergency medical care.

If chigger bites happen on the penis, they can cause swelling, itching, and painful peeing. This is known as “summer penile syndrome.”

Chiggers are a form of mite that inject their saliva so that they can liquefy and eat skin. In response to a chigger bite, the skin around the bite hardens. The surrounding skin becomes irritated and inflamed (pictured), and an itchy red welt develops.

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Although horse flies and deer flies most affect the animals in those names, unfortunately being a human doesn’t earn you a free pass. According to the University of Kentucky, these flies can target humans who are outside, and the intensity of their attack varies from year to year. Bites can be painful and cause bleeding, swelling, irritation, or an allergic reaction. Swelling and irritation should disappear in a day or two.

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Certain Kinds of Flies Can Bite, Too

If you have known allergies to bug bites, talk with your physician about emergency care. Some people with severe allergies to bug bites need to have allergy medicine, including epinephrine (such as an EpiPen), with them always.

The brown recluse spider is poisonous and usually lives in dark and unused spaces. Some people feel a small sting followed immediately by a sharp pain, while others don’t realize they’ve gotten a brown recluse bite until hours later. Four to eight hours afterward, the bite may become more painful and look like a bruise or blister with a blue-purple area around it. Later, the bite becomes crusty and turns dark. It’s also worth noting that this type of spider is found in several Midwestern states, western parts of some Southern states (including Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia), and the central Southern states (including Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri) — and they’re rarely found outside of these areas, according to the University of Kentucky.

Bee stings cause a sharp pain that may continue for a few minutes before fading to a dull, aching feeling. The area may still feel sore to the touch a few days later. A red skin bump with white around it may appear around the site of the sting, and the area may itch and feel hot to the touch. If you’ve been stung by a bee before, your body may also have an immune response to the venom in the sting, resulting in swelling where the sting occurred or in an entire area of your body, including your throat and lungs. If you have this type of allergic response, called anaphylaxis, it is a medical emergency that needs treatment immediately. Symptoms of a severe allergy to a bee sting include hives, swelling, trouble breathing, dizziness, cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and even cardiac arrest.

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The National Pest Management Association suggests wearing light-colored clothing and insect repellent as the most important strategies for prevention.

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Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

Certain bug bites can also spread illnesses, such as Zika virus, West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, Dengue fever, and yellow fever (all transmitted by mosquitoes); Lyme disease (from ticks); Rocky Mountain spotted fever (from dogs or wood ticks); and Chagas disease (from a blood-sucking insect known as a “kissing bug”).

Symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite occur within a few hours and include fever, chills, itching, nausea, and sweating. Because some people will have a serious reaction that can lead to kidney failure, seizure, and coma, it’s important to get medical care at once, according to MedlinePlus. Be sure to seek medical attention immediately if you could have been bitten by a poisonous spider; call 911 or America’s Poison Centers at 800-222-1222.

Ant bites and stings are typically painful and cause red skin bumps. Some types of ants, like fire ants, are venomous, and their bites can cause a severe allergic reaction. Fire ants bite first to hold on and then sting, giving a sharp pain and a burning sensation. If you’re bitten by fire ants, you may see white, fluid-filled pustules or blisters (pictured) a day or two after the sting. These last three to eight days and may cause scars. The bumps may also be itchy and red, and you may have swelling around the site. It’s important not to scratch or break open the blisters because they can become infected, notes the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Carpenter ant bites are also painful because they spray formic acid into the bite, which causes a burning feeling.

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Symptoms of Lyme disease include a skin rash in the pattern of rings, much like a bull’s-eye on a target, that appears up to a month after the tick bite. You may also have fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint aches, as well as irregular heart rhythms. But 20 to 30 percent of people who get infected never develop a rash. Symptoms such as swollen or painful joints, memory loss, or other autoimmune responses that mimic those of other diseases may present themselves when Lyme disease is in its advanced stages. A diagnosis may remain elusive because many doctors will not initially equate these nonspecific symptoms with Lyme disease.

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Kissing bugs, also known as assassin bugs, can pass on the parasites that cause Chagas disease. According to one study, more than half of these insects carry the parasite. In the United States, Chagas disease affects about 300,000 people, according to the CDC.

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For 2022, a total of 1,126 cases of the West Nile virus were reported across 42 states in the United States, according to the CDC. Symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after the bite and can include headaches, body aches, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and a skin rash. People with a more severe West Nile infection may develop meningitis or encephalitis and have symptoms including neck stiffness, severe headache, disorientation, high fever, and convulsions.

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When to See the Doctor for Spider Bites

Keeping fingernails short can help prevent skin damage from scratching. Antibiotics may be needed if a skin infection does happen.

No matter what type of bug bite you have, it is good to know what bit you. Learning to identify a bug bite by how it looks and feels will help you know whether to treat the bug bite at home or seek immediate medical care. Here are 13 bug bites and what they look like:

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