News

12 May 2015

Bug bites and stings: When to see a doctor

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (May 12, 2015) – — Although most bug bites and stings are harmless, some can be dangerous. This is especially true if you are allergic to the bug’s venom, or if the bug is carrying a disease. In the United States, it’s common to experience a bite or sting from mosquitoes; fleas; spiders; bees, wasps and hornets; biting flies; mites; ticks; fire ants; and bedbugs.

“Most bug bites and stings can be safely treated at home with topical medication, such as hydrocortisone cream or ointment, or an oral antihistamine to reduce the itch,” said board-certified dermatologist Margaret E. Parsons, MD, FAAD, associate clinical professor of dermatology, University of California, Davis. “Sometimes, however, a bug bite or sting could turn into something serious, particularly if you have been bitten or stung by many insects at the same time.”

Dr. Parsons advises going to the emergency room immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after a bug bite or sting:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • The sensation that your throat is closing
  • Swollen lips, tongue or face
  • Chest pain
  • A racing heartbeat that lasts more than a few minutes
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • A headache
  • A red, donut-shaped or target-shaped rash that develops after a tick bite: This could be a sign of Lyme disease, which should be treated with antibiotics.
  • A fever with a red or black, spotty rash that spreads: This could be a sign of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a bacterial infection carried by ticks, which should be treated immediately.

“Although most bug bites and stings do not turn into a severe or even fatal illness like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms,” said Dr. Parsons. “If you feel tired all the time, you have a headache, fever or body aches, or you develop a rash after a bug bite, see a board-certified dermatologist immediately.”

These tips are demonstrated in “Bug Bites and Stings: When to See a Dermatologist,” a video posted to the Academy website and the Academy’s YouTube channel. This video is part of the Dermatology A to Z: Video Series, which offers videos demonstrating tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails. A new video in the series posts to the Academy’s website and YouTube channel each month.

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 18,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or www.aad.org. Follow the Academy on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin), or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).