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Other Arthropod Bites

By Robert A. Barish, MD, MBA, Professor of Emergency Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago
Thomas Arnold, MD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine, LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport

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The more common biting non-tick arthropods in the US include

  • Sand flies

  • Horseflies

  • Deerflies

  • Blackflies

  • Stable flies

  • Mosquitoes

  • Fleas

  • Kissing bugs

  • Bedbugs

  • Wheel bugs

  • Certain water bugs

All of these arthropods, except wheel bugs and water bugs, also suck blood, but none is venomous.

Disease transmission is the main concern related to mosquito bites. Mosquitoes may transmit

Arthropod saliva composition varies considerably, and the lesions caused by bites vary from small papules to large ulcers with swelling and acute pain. Dermatitis may also occur. Most serious consequences result from secondary infection or hypersensitivity reactions, which can be fatal in sensitized people. Flea allergens may trigger respiratory allergy even without a bite in some people.

The location and pattern of wheals and lesions are sometimes diagnostic of the bite source. For example, blackfly bites are usually on the neck, ears, and face; flea bites may be numerous, mostly on the feet and legs; and bedbug bites often occur in linear patterns, most commonly on the torso.


  • Routine wound care

  • For itching, a topical antihistamine or corticosteroid

The bite should be cleaned, and an antihistamine or corticosteroid cream or ointment should be applied for itching. Severe hypersensitivity reactions should be treated.