Itchy skin? Identify What Bit You

There are numerous types of insects such as wasps, fire ants, hornets and bees that bite and sting. Although most bites are harmless and cause a temporary discomfort some can be quite dangerous to your health and can lead to conditions like the Lyme disease, West Nile virus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Learning to identify insect bites is one of the best ways to determine whether you need to seek medical attention or treat the skin on your own.

Mosquito Bites

There are a little over 30 species of mosquitoes found in the UK, and some of them are what we call pests. It is the females that do the biting and irritate our day-to-day life. A mosquito bite can be characterised as itchy, round, red bump on the skin. In rare and location-specific cases, mosquitoes can cause severe reactions or spread diseases such as:

  • The West Nile virus – Happens in less than one percent of the cases, only in the United States. Still, it’s essential to recognise the virus symptoms which typically appear one week after the bite – headaches, fever, body arches and skin rash.
  • Encephalitis – In some severe cases people may also develop which symptoms include disorientation, high fever, stiffness in the neck and convulsions.
  • HIV – Originally a public health concern, but after many years of study and testing, conclusion is that it is almost completely impossible for the HIV virus to be transmitted by mosquito bites.

Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug bites come with mild symptoms and reactions. Typically around the neck, back, hands and legs, basically depending on your sleeping position as to which body parts are most exposed during sleep. Their bites are generally classified as ghost bites, as they are almost never felt by the victim during the bite. Afterwards, however, the area becomes a raised, red and itchy skin bump that may lead to a rash. Lesions go away after a week or two.

Apart from these physiological reactions, people who often suffer such parasitic bites might develop insomnia and anxiety, as well as an allergy towards bed bugs. Bed bug infestations grow rapidly which also increases the risk of asthma development in children, as well as worsens typical allergic symptoms in people with allergies.

Horse and Deer Fly Bites

Horse flies are of the large and hairy fly variety and a common outdoor annoyance for both animals and humans in hot summer days. These flies have extremely painful bites, because unlike the rest of the creatures in this list, they don’t pierce, but rather cut the skin, while injecting saliva containing anticoagulant as to prevent blood clotting. This makes horse fly bites harder to heal and painful for a day or more, as well as they may easily induce allergic reactions such as hives, difficulty with breathing, and in extremely rare cases – anaphylactic shock.

These insects are attracted to a potential victim by its movement, warmth, surface texture and the carbon dioxide it breathes out. They also prefer to be in the sun and enchanted by polarized reflections from water, which makes them avoid shaded places like barns and particularly annoying near swimming pools.

Horseflies, as their name precedes, also feed from many types of animals, usually big warm blooded mammals like cattle, but will also sometimes feed from dead animals. Thus making them an easy vector for different kinds of blood-borne diseases of mammals, such as:

  • Equine infectious anaemia virus;
  • The parasitic filarial worm Loa loa, also known as “eye worm” (transmitted between humans);
  • Anthrax (among cattle and sheep);
  • Tularemia (between rabbits and humans);

Spider Bites

Generally, most spider bites are not dangerous. They cause temporary discomfort and are similar to a bee sting, which causes swelling, red skin and pain in the area of the bite. In case the bitten person is allergic, he or she may develop symptoms like tightness in the chest, swelling of the face, swallowing difficulties or even breathing problems. Depending on the area, there are some quite poisonous and dangerous spiders.

Fortunately, most of these locations are exotic tropical places. For example, the bite of the black widow spider can cause severe reactions. Although the bite of this spider may not be harmful at first, swelling may begin almost immediately. In less than eight hours, the sufferer may experience rigidity, muscle and stomach pain as well as breathing difficulties and nausea. If you’ve been bitten by a poisonous spider seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Brown Recluse Bites

The brown recluse is a poisonous spider that can be found in various places around the world. A non-aggressive species, that does bite only when pressed to the skin. This mostly occurs in cases of accidental nature such as when tangled in clothes, bedding and etc. People bitten by this spider might initially feel no pain, but it can actually lead to serious conditions due to the potentially deadly hemotoxic venom. Here’s what you should know about the brown recluse bites:

  • The majority, or to be exact, 49% of bites are minor with no necrosis or systemic effects. In one study of clinically diagnosed brown recluse bites, skin necrosis occurred 37% of the time, while systemic illness occurred 14% of the time.
  • Systematic effects may occur before necrosis, as the venom spreads throughout the body in minutes.
  • The elderly, the debilitatingly ill and children may be more susceptible to systemic loxoscelism.
  • Most fatalities are in children under the age of seven or those with a weak immune system.
  • It is estimated that 80% of reported brown recluse bites have been misdiagnosed.

This is why it’s important to be able to recognize the brown recluse bite symptoms or better yet – get checked by a doctor as soon as possible.

Cutaneous Symptoms

Usually the bitten area becomes painful and itchy within the first two to eight hours. After which the bite forms a necrotizing ulcer that destroys soft tissue, which can later take months to heal, leaving deep scarring. These symptoms worsen with time, eventually leading to necrosis and the wound growing as large as 25cm (10 inches).

Systemic Symptoms

Most commonly these include nausea, vomiting, fever, rashes, and muscle and joint pain.

Flea Bites

Flea bites look like a small reddish skin rash, hives and swelling accompanied by a lot of itchiness. What’s characteristic about flea bites is the red dot in the centre. These types of bite tend to be in groups of five to six and are typically seen on the ankles, knees, elbows and waist. Besides the discomfort and annoyance caused by this bug, their bites can also act as a vector of a number of diseases, fortunately most of them are location specific or affect only animals. Humans should watch out for the following:

  • Hymenolepiasis Tapeworm – Infection occurs by accidentally swallowing eggs of the parasite. The examination of the stool for eggs and parasites can confirm the diagnosis within minutes.Light infections are usually symptomless, whereas infection with more than 2000 worms can cause enteritis, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, restlessness, irritability, restless sleep, and anal and nasal pruritus. Occasionally, epileptic seizures can occur in infected children.
  • Murine typhus – Symptoms include headache, fever, muscle pain, joint pain, nausea and vomiting. 40–50% of patients will develop a discrete rash six days after the onset of signs. Up to 45% will develop neurological signs such as confusion, stupor, seizures or imbalance.
  • Bartonella henselae (Cat-Scratching Disease) – Occurs not only after contacts with a cat such as scratching, but also from cat fleas biting humans. Symptoms include fever, enlarged, tender lymph nodes that develop 1–3 weeks after exposure and a papule or pustule at the inoculation site.

Bee and Wasp Stings

Bee stings are one of the most painful bites caused by insects. In people with insect sting allergy, a bee sting may trigger a dangerous anaphylactic shock that is potentially deadly. Even worse, honey bee stings release pheromones that prompt nearby bees to attack.

The initial sharp pain lasts for several minutes and then fades to an aching, dull feeling for a few hours. The bitten area may feel sore, itchy and swollen for up to a week after the sting. The area must not be scratched as it will only worsen the symptoms. If a reaction persists over the described period and covers more than 7-10 centimeters (3-4 inches) of skin, medical attention should be sought. For 2% of people may develop hypersensitivity after being stung, creating a more severe reaction when stung again in the future.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Skin reactions – including hives, itching and flushed or pale skin;
  • Respiratory reactions – Difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat and tongue;
  • Cardiovascular reactions – A weak, rapid pulse, lightheadedness;
  • Other reactions – Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness or fainting which may lead to total loss of consciousness;

Tick Bites

Technically ticks aren’t insects, but parasitic arachnids closely related to mites. Ticks can be found on unpleasant occasions through UK woods, moors or thick grass. The difference between ticks and bed bugs is that ticks stay on the skin, they latch on it and continue feeding until spotted and removed. Tick bites aren’t painful and even go unnoticed on most occasions, however they are hard to remove and if left unnoticed can infect humans with tick borne diseases, varying depending on the species and location.

For instance an Australian species, the Australian paralysis tick is very venomous and can cause paralysis, thankfully not found in the UK. You can send any ticks you collect to Public Health England and they’ll identify them for you. Some of the most common tick borne diseases include:

  • Lyme disease – If you experience a circular rash spreading out from where you were bitten it is extremely important to visit a doctor, as this is a common symptom of developing Lyme disease.
  • Tularemia;
  • Tick-borne relapsing fever;
  • Babesiosis;
  • Ehrlichiosis;
  • Tick-borne meningoencephalitis;
  • Bovine anaplasmosis;

Tips for Removing Ticks

When removing a tick mechanically, you must be careful most for its mouth parts, as it is very common during removal to leave them latched in the skin unknowingly, which can later lead to an infection. So when removing ticks, be sure to use fine-tipped tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible and removing it with one steady linear movement instead of twisting, jerking and crushing.

We are a commercial service provider, therefore we produce content with informational purposes only. This site does not offer medical advice.

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