What is an insect bite?
Typically, insect bites or stings are not serious, and they usually get better in a few days. However, sometimes they can become infected or cause an allergic reaction.
Insects that bite or sting in the UK can include bedbugs, fleas, midges, mosquitoes, bees, wasps and hornets, as well as some arachnids (8-legged spiders), mites and ticks.
Bites from certain insects can cause specific illnesses, such as Lyme disease from ticks and malaria from mosquitoes in specific parts of the world.
What are the symptoms of an infected insect bite?
Infected insect bites can cause a range of symptoms that typically worsen over time. It’s important to recognise these signs and seek medical attention as soon as you can if you think you have an infected bite, or if your insect bite is not getting better.
The symptoms of an infected insect bite can include:
- Increased redness – the area around the insect bite may become increasingly red.
- Swelling – infection can lead to significant swelling around the bite.
- Heat – the skin around the bite may feel warm or hot to touch.
- Pain – infected insect bites are often more painful than bites that are not infected. You may feel throbbing or constant pain.
- Pus or discharge – the presence of pus or discharge from the site of the bite can be a sign of infection.
- Itchiness – the infection site may become very itchy.
- Increased tenderness – the bite area may become more tender or sensitive when touched.
- Fever and malaise – if the infection spreads, you may develop a high temperature or feel unwell.
What causes an insect bite to become infected?
Infected insect bites occur when bacteria or other pathogens enter the body through the bite wound. Reasons for the bite to become infected can include:
- Bacterial ingress – the puncture wound of a bite or sting allows bacteria to enter and multiply, leading to an infection.
- Scratching – itching is a common reaction to insect bites. Scratching can damage the skin’s protective layer and open space for bacteria from under the fingernails to penetrate the wound.
- Infected insect vectors – some insects/arachnids such as ticks and fleas can carry bacteria and other pathogens that can be transmitted into the bloodstream when they bite. For example, Lyme disease is caused by a species of bacteria called Borrelia. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick.
How to prevent infected insect bites
To prevent an infected insect bite, it’s best to avoid getting bitten in the first place – especially when travelling abroad.
The TravelHealthPro website provides useful information about how you can avoid being bitten during your travels, as well as when you’re in the UK.
General advice includes avoiding places and times of the day when insects will be prevalent, and using insect repellents. Covering exposed areas of the skin is also helpful.
It is also a good idea to research which travel vaccinations you may need when travelling to certain parts of the world.
How to ease the symptoms of an insect bite
If you have been bitten, you can help to ease your symptoms and reduce your chances of it getting infected by:
- Not scratching the bite or sting
- Wrapping an ice pack in a clean flannel, or a flannel soaked in cold water, and holding it against the bite to reduce swelling
- Keeping the affected area raised if you are able to
- Using paracetamol or ibuprofen if the sting is painful
- Using antihistamines to relieve any itching (do not use this if you’ve had contact with caterpillar hairs)
- Using a mild steroid cream, such as hydrocortisone, to reduce swelling and itching
Why visit your local Day Lewis Pharmacy to treat infected insect bites?
If you have an insect bite and you’re worried it might be infected, we are here to help. The highly trained pharmacists at your local Day Lewis Pharmacy are equipped with the knowledge to assess your symptoms and provide infected insect bite treatment options as part of the Pharmacy First scheme.
There are many reasons to visit Day Lewis Pharmacy if you suspect you have an infected insect bite, such as:
- Convenience@With over 260 pharmacies across the UK, it has never been easier to pop into one of our Day Lewis pharmacies. Plus, there’s no need to see your GP beforehand. Simply call into your local pharmacy, where our pharmacists will be happy to help.
- Effective symptom relief that works: All of our pharmacists are highly qualified, meaning they have the knowledge and expertise to recommend a range of effective symptom relief options, whether you’re looking for bee sting, spider bite or tick bite treatment.
- Personalised advice just for you: Our pharmacists are perfectly placed to offer expert advice that you can trust. They can offer personalised guidance based on your individual needs.
- Over-the-counter options: Many effective infected insect bite relief options are available without a prescription, including some wasp sting, midges bite, hornet sting and flea bite treatments. Your local Day Lewis pharmacist can help you choose the right product for you.
- Preventative care that works: Our pharmacists are not only here to help when you already have insect bites and stings – they can also offer advice on the preventative measures you can take.
If you’re concerned about an insect bite, our Day Lewis pharmacists are here to help. Speak to us to find out how you can access prescription and over-the-counter treatments for infected insect bites via the NHS Pharmacy First Service.