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Insect bites or stings

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Insect Bites or Stings

Insects such as wasps, hornets, bees, ants, fleas, mosquitoes, spiders and flies may sting or bite. The sting or bite may be painful and can be followed by a reaction to venom or anti-clotting agent transferred to your skin through the insect’s stinger or mouth. Even insects not typically capable of breaking the skin can be unpleasant.

Below is a list of different stings or bites common to the UK and how to identify them. For more information on symptoms, treatment and prevention for each type of bite or sting, click on the relevant title.
Ant Stings and Bites – hyperlink

  • A ‘pinch’ sensation and pale pink mark
  • Pinkness or redness in the affected area

Gnat Bites – hyperlink

  • A ‘bite’ sensation, sharp, burning or stinging sensation
  • A ‘pinprick’ spot at either side of the bite

Ladybird Bites – hyperlink

  • A raised red bump that may hurt or sting for a few days

Mosquito Bites – hyperlink

  • A soft, itchy bump on the skin that may become pink or red in colour
  • Discolouration of the skin at the site of the bite. You could also potentially have small dark spots appear around the affected area, potentially resembling bruising

Tick Bites – hyperlink

  • Tick bites can often be easy to identify as the tick remains attached to the skin for up to 10 days after the first bite. They are small eight-legged insects that range in colour from shades of brown to black and they increase in size as they feed on blood
  • Pain and swelling at the bite area

Wasp stings – hyperlink

  • Sharp pain, redness, swelling, and even a burning sensation at the sting site
  • A raised red welt at the sting site

Bee stings – hyperlink

  • Pain, redness and swelling at the site of the sting
  • A white spot commonly appears where the stinger punctured the skin


Typically, an insect bite or sting will result in a red, swollen lump developing on the skin. The area may be painful and can be itchy. Symptoms will usually not require medical treatment and can improve within a few hours or days. Some people may have a mild allergic reaction, which will cause a larger area of skin around the bite to become red, swollen and painful. A moderate reaction may last a week and symptoms of infection could appear if the bite area has been scratched and bacteria has been introduced to the wound. In moderate cases and cases of an infection, we advise you to call Ahmey’s and make an appointment with a doctor. In rare cases, a bite or a sting will cause a severe reaction and cause symptoms of anaphylaxis (dizziness, swollen mouth or face and difficulty breathing). These symptoms require immediate emergency treatment.


Symptoms and circumstances that require a call to Ahmey’s or NHS 111


  • Your symptoms do not improve after a few days or they are getting worse
  • You have been stung or bitten near your eyes, inside your mouth or throat
  • You have a large area approximately 10cm or more in diameter around the bite that is red and swollen
  • You have symptoms of a wound infection such as: fever, pus in the wound, increasing pain, swelling or redness
  • You have the general symptoms of an infection: fever, swollen glands and other flu-like symptoms


Symptoms and circumstances that require emergency medical assistance

In the unusual event that a bite causes symptoms of a severe reaction, you will need immediate emergency care. Dial 999 for an ambulance if you experience the symptoms below following a bite or sting:

  • Swelling of the throat and tongue
  • Facial swelling
  • Additional skin reactions, including itching, hives and pale or flushed skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A weak, rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Additional possible symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain


Any mild discomfort for a mild reaction to a bite or sting can be treated by the patient themselves in the ways shown below.

First aid for bites and stings:

  • Remove the tick or sting if it is still in the skin
  • Wash the affected area gently with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to clean the wound and reduce the chance of a bacterial infection
  • Place an ice pack or a cold compress (cloth or flannel cooled with cold water) to reduce any swelling
  • If possible, elevate or raise the affected area to reduce swelling
  • Avoid scratching the area to reduce the risk of introducing infection
  • You can purchase painkillers, anti-inflammatory and anti-itching creams, such as Hydrocortisone, over the counter to relieve itching and reduce inflammation caused by insect bites and stings

Causes/ Prevention

There are some general precautions that you can take to reduce your risk of being stung or bitten by insects.

  • Use a mesh screen on doors and windows to keep insects from entering the home
  • If possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers and apply an insect repellant that contains 10% to 30% DEET to exposed skin
  • Avoid common breeding or feeding areas, such as flowering plants, compost, stagnant water, rubbish and outdoor areas where food is served
  • Avoid using strong soap and perfume products as these can attract insects
  • Wear shoes when outdoors
  • Remain calm and move slowly when you encounter wasps and bees. Do not wave your arms or swat them
  • If you are travelling to a country where there is a risk of insect-transmitted serious disease, we advise you to take additional precautions. For example, we advise you to sleep with a mosquito net, use DEET repellant and to take antimalarial tablets if you are travelling to an area where you could contract malaria
Faheem Ahmed

Have Questions?

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Visit us at:
158 Oxford Road
Cowley, Oxford, OX4 2LA
Contact us at:
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01865 689 149

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professional and lovely staff. The staff was super helpful and also called just to make sure I got my results without any mistakes.
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Went for a fit to fly PCR test. The staff were incredibly polite and helpful. They took special care to get my flight credentials correct and had my test result to me within less than a day. They guarantee to get your result the next day (even over weekends). Overall good service, I would recommend.
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