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    Insect Bites & Stings

    Insect bites and stings are common and usually only cause minor irritation. However, some stings can be painful and trigger a serious allergic reaction.

    In the UK, insects that bite include Midges, Mosquitoes, Fleas, Bedbugs, and, although not strictly insects, Spiders, Mites and Ticks, which are arachnids. Insects that sting include Bees, Wasps and Hornets.

    An insect bites you by making a hole in your skin to feed. Most insects sting as a defence by infecting venom into your skin.

    Treating Insect Bites & Stings

    Most bites and stings are treated by:

    • washing the affected area with soap and water
    • placing a cold compress (a flannel or cloth soaked in cold water) over the area to reduce swelling

    Try not to scratch the affected area to avoid infection. If you’re in pain or the area is swollen, take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

    When to seek medical help

    See your GP if you’ve been bitten or stung and there’s a lot of swelling and blistering or if there’s pus, which indicates an infection.

    Dial 999 and ask for an ambulance if you experience any of these symptoms after a bite or sting:

    • wheezing or difficulty breathing
    • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
    • a fast heart rate
    • dizziness or feeling faint
    • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
    • confusion, anxiety or agitation

    Read more about the complications of an insect bite or sting.