Insect and spider bites often cause minor swelling, redness, pain, and itching. These mild reactions are common and may last from a few hours to a few days. Home treatment is often all that is needed to relieve the symptoms of a mild reaction to common stinging or biting insects and spiders.
Some people have more severe reactions to bites or stings. Babies and children may be more affected by bites or stings than adults.
Examples of problems that are more serious include:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may include:
A severe reaction can be life-threatening. If you have had a bad allergic reaction to a substance before and are exposed to it again, treat any symptoms as an emergency. Even if the symptoms are mild at first, they may quickly become very severe.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock (most of which will be present) include:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock in a child may include:
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
Sudden tiny red or purple spots or sudden bruising may be early symptoms of a serious illness or bleeding problem. There are two types.
Petechiae (say "puh-TEE-kee-eye"):
Purpura (say "PURR-pyuh-ruh" or “PURR-puh-ruh”):
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
or other emergency services now.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Most bites and stings will heal on their own without a visit to a doctor. There are several things you can do to relieve pain and itching and prevent infection from a bite or sting.
Insect or spider bites or stings or contact with caterpillars
Relieve pain, itching, and swelling
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Some people try a home remedy, such as putting witch hazel or underarm deodorant on the bite. Home remedies haven't been proven scientifically, but usually they won't hurt you if you want to try them.
Prevent a skin infection
For home treatment of lice, scabies, tick bites, bedbugs, or kissing bugs, see the topics Body Lice, Head Lice, Pubic Lice, Scabies, Tick Bites, Bedbugs, and Kissing Bugs.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Take the following measures to help prevent bites and stings.
Additional measures include those to:
If you have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to bites or stings in the past:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as ofMay 16, 2017
Current as of: May 16, 2017
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.