Insect bites and stings

If you have a more serious reaction, your GP may prescribe other medication or refer you to an allergy clinic for immunotherapy (desensitisation).

Spider bites from spiders native to the UK are rare. You’re more likely to be bitten by a spider while you’re abroad, if you keep non-native spiders as pets, or if you have a job that involves handling goods from overseas.

Insect bites and stings

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Secondary bacterial infections are a common complication of insect bites and stings. They include:

However, see your pharmacist or GP as soon as possible if your symptoms are severe.

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Ticks can carry a bacterial infection called Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease can be serious if it isn’t treated.

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Most people won’t have severe symptoms after being bitten or stung by an insect, but some people can react badly to them because they’ve developed antibodies to the venom.

If you’ve been bitten by a tick, remove it as soon as possible to reduce the risk of getting a tick-borne infection, such as Lyme disease (a bacterial infection that causes a pink or red circular rash to develop around the area of the bite).

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They can produce a severe localised reaction (a reaction confined to the area of the bite) with symptoms such as:

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The Blandford fly

Don’t pinch the sting out with your fingers or tweezers because you may spread the venom.

If you suspect that you have a tick bite, complete our self-help guide to assess your symptoms and find out what to do next.

Insect bites and stings

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Page last reviewed: 01 June 2023
Next review due: 01 June 2026

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Horseflies cut the skin when they bite, rather than piercing it, so horsefly bites can take a long time to heal and can cause an infection.

You’re more likely to be bitten or stung if you work outdoors or regularly take part in outdoor activities, such as camping or hiking.

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