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Symptoms, causes, and treatments for

Insect Bites and Stings

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Symptoms of

Insect Bites and Stings

All manner of insects, from ants to mosquitoes, defend themselves with bites or stings when threatened. Most bites and stings are bothersome rather than life-threatening. Most of us have experienced an uncomfortable, but temporary, bite or sting from an insect.

However, bites and stings can cause a severe reaction if you’re allergic. Some species of insects—certain varieties of spiders, for example—may trigger an allergy that requires medical attention.


Bites occur in insect species like mosquitoes and lice. Mosquitos don’t sting you, even though their long, needle-like mouth seems a bit like a bee’s stinger.

The technical definition of a bite is when the insect pierces your skin to feed on your blood. Spiders also bite, and there are certain species of poisonous spiders in Oregon that can cause severe reactions.

Symptoms common to non-severe insect bites include:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Slight numbness
  • Swelling

Stings are wholly unique to wasps, bees and other similar insects. A sting is when you’re injected with venom through a stinger or stinger-like appendage. When doctors talk about allergic reactions to insects, stings are usually the cause—allergies to bee stings are fairly well-known to the public.

Stings share some similar symptoms to insect bites, which may make it hard to distinguish between the two if you didn’t actually see the culprit that attacked you.

Symptoms of non-severe insect stings include:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Causes of

Insect Bites and Stings

Just like you, insects are just trying to make their way in this big, dangerous world.

Bites or stings occur when these creatures are threatened and feel the need to use defensive measures to protect themselves or their insect families.

Unfortunately, until medical science devises a way to reason with bugs, you can’t convince an insect to stop its attack once you’ve disturbed or threatened it.

Should I be worried?

In general, no. Thousands of people spend countless hours outdoors in the summer pestered and bitten by, for example, mosquitoes without contracting serious diseases. Who didn’t accidentally step on a fire ant mound as a kid and suffer the (temporarily uncomfortable) consequences?

The Pacific Northwest generally benefits from, depending on the year, fewer recorded occurrences of mosquito-borne illnesses than other areas of the country.

However, allergic reactions to a bite or sting are no joke, and can cause life-threatening reactions.

Spiders, while largely benign, come in particularly poisonous varieties. You should seek immediate medical attention if you’ve recently been bitten by a spider and notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Severe pain where you were bitten
  • Speech difficulties
  • Tissue around the bite is dying (becoming necrotic)
  • Vomiting

Anaphylaxis occurs when you have an allergic reaction to a bite or sting. Seek immediate medical attention if the following signs of anaphylaxis occur after being stung or bitten by an insect:

  • Breathing becomes difficult
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness
  • Rash
  • Swelling of your throat, lips, or tongue

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Insect Bites and Stings

Prevention Tips:

Consider these tips to help prevent insect bites:

  • Douse yourself in repellent. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends EPA-registered repellents with 20% or more DEET to guard against insect bites and stings, especially ticks. Alternative mosquito repellents might not be as effective at repelling ticks. Oregon has a lower rate of tick bites than the national average, but occurrences of Lyme disease, a tick-transmitted infection, are on the rise.
  • Dress for success. Long sleeves and long pants cover exposed skin and thus reduce the chance of an insect making its acquaintance with your body. Going into the deep bush? Tuck-in your shirt, and don’t forget to tuck your pants into your socks for that extra layer of defense. It’s also a bold fashion statement on the trail.

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