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Insect Bites Treatment Overview

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Care Plan


First steps to consider

  • Most bug bites can be treated at home with OTC anti-itch cream like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.
  • An antihistamine, like Zyrtec or Claritin, can also help with itching or mild allergic reactions.
  • Applying cold packs to the bite or sting site can help.
See home treatments

When you may need a provider

  • You have tried home treatments for more than 3 days and they are not helping.
  • You develop a rash with intense itching, or a rash that has a bullseye.
  • You find a tick that you think has been on you for more than 36 hours
  • The area around the bite has become painful, swollen, red, and warm to the touch.
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Emergency Care

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Go to the ER if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling of your mouth or throat
  • Vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Fever or chills, body aches, joint pain, fatigue, and headaches
  • Intense pain where you were bitten
  • You think you may have been bitten by a widow or recluse spider.

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All treatments for insect bites
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Read more about insect bites care options

When to see a healthcare provider

If your insect bite has redness and swelling that does not go away or worsens after 3–4 days, it is a good idea to see a healthcare provider to make sure you don’t have an infection.

Also, if there is a chance you were bitten by a poisonous insect, like a widow spider, you should go to the ER for monitoring and further treatment.

You should also see your provider if you think you’ve been bitten by a tick or have an infestation like scabies.

Getting diagnosed

Your doctor will most likely examine your skin for any rashes and signs of a bug bite. They will also ask you questions to make sure you don’t have another condition. In most cases, no additional tests will be needed.

What to expect from your visit

  • The provider will probably examine the area where you were bitten.
  • If there is still an insect attached or a stinger, they will remove it.
  • If you are having a severe allergic reaction, they will give you medications like epinephrine.
  • Certain types of insect bites might need a prescription medication. For example, scabies from mites is treated with a special lotion, called Permethrin cream. If a tick was attached to you for more than 36 hours, your provider may prescribe an antibiotic within the first 72 hours to prevent Lyme disease. A rash in the shape of a bullseye could be a sign of early Lyme disease and you will need to take antibiotics.

Prescription medications for insect bites

  • Permethrin 5% cream (for scabies)
  • Hydrocortisone lotion (for itching)
  • Epinephrine (Epipen for anaphylaxis)

Types of providers who treat insect bites

  • A primary care provider can treat most reactions to bug bite.
  • A dermatologist is a skin doctor who can help identify complex rashes that are difficult to diagnose.
  • A toxicology specialist can help with treatment for poisonous insect bites.
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Frequently asked questions