How to identify and treat the most common bug bites

Most bug bites are transmitted directly from the insect and occur outdoors. Two exceptions are bedbugs (tiny mites that live in and near beds) and lice, which spread through contact with an infected person, a comb, or clothing.

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.

If you have hives, get many bites, or notice a bite that looks infected, you should visit a board-certified dermatologist for treatment, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Bedbug bites can occur anywhere on your body but typically show up on uncovered areas, such as your neck, face, arms, and hands. It’s good to know that although they’re common, bedbugs do not carry disease, according to the CDC.

Mosquito Bites

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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.

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When to See the Doctor for Spider Bites

You may notice that bug bites pick up in the summer, when you’re outside more often and exposing more skin, but they can occur any time of year—especially if you happen to be preyed upon inside of your home. (Spiders, bed bugs, and fleas don’t hibernate in the winter, sadly.) There are ways to deter the critters from coming your way, especially if you use insect repellent or bug spray, but there’s no perfect solution to ward off the pests.

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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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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What Do Bedbug Bites Look Like?

Although it’s not always possible to know which bug is to blame for your latest bite (or bites), you can often get a pretty good idea based on your skin, the site of the sting, and a few other clues. Ready to get to the bottom of your bug bite mystery? Here are pictures of the most common bug bites to keep on your radar.

Cases of EEE are rare but deadly. For people infected with EEE, 30 percent do not survive, and many who do develop neurological problems. While there was only one case reported in the United States in 2022, there were 38 cases in 2019, including 15 individuals who died from the condition, according to the CDC. Most of the cases have been reported in the Northeast.

What Bit Me? Spot These 13 Bug Bites

Mosquito Bites

Some tick bites can be dangerous because the insects may carry disease. Black-legged ticks, formerly known as deer ticks, may carry Lyme disease, and dog ticks can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Up to 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year in the United States.

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Bee Stings Can Result in Severe Allergic Responses

A mosquito bite appears as an itchy, round red or pink skin bump. It’s usually a harmless bug bite but can sometimes cause a serious illness, such as the Zika virus (particularly harmful in pregnant women), West Nile virus, malaria, or eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). For most people, Zika causes a brief, flulike illness. But newborns of pregnant women infected with Zika have an alarming rate of microcephaly birth defects. Check out the Zika Travel Information page on the website for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find out more about travel warnings and advisories.

For all of these types of fly bites, they usually show up as small red bumps that are itchy.

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Another emerging concern is a species of mosquito found in Florida, called Aedes scapularis. Previously found mostly in the Caribbean and Latin America, research indicates the mosquito is now well established in Florida. The invasive species has been found in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, according to one report . It’s unclear if the Aedes scapularis mosquitos in Florida are spreading any types of disease, but elsewhere, they have been shown to spread some viruses, including the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) and the one that causes yellow fever.

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Brown Recluse Spider Bites Need Immediate Medical Attention

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.

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.

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