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Insect Bites

by Robert A. Barish, MD, MBA, Thomas Arnold, MD

Ticks, spiders, and mites are not insects. For tick and mite bites, see Tick and Mite Bites. For spider bites, see Spider Bites.

Among the more common biting and sometimes bloodsucking insects in the United States are the following:

  • Sand flies

  • Horseflies

  • Deerflies

  • Blackflies

  • Stable flies

  • Mosquitoes

  • Fleas

  • Lice

  • Kissing bugs

  • Certain water bugs

None is venomous. The bites of these insects may be irritating because of the components of their saliva. Most bites result in nothing more than a small, red, itchy bump. Sometimes, people develop a large sore (ulcer), with swelling and pain. The most severe reactions occur in people who are allergic to the bites or who develop an infection after being bitten. Fleas can cause allergic reactions sometimes without biting.

The bite should be cleaned, and an ointment or cream containing an antihistamine, an anesthetic, a corticosteroid, or a combination may be applied to relieve itching, pain, and inflammation. People with multiple bites can take an antihistamine by mouth. People who are allergic to the bite should seek medical attention immediately or use an emergency allergy kit containing a preloaded syringe of epinephrine.

Infectious Disease Spread by Insects

More significant than the bites themselves, certain insect bites in certain parts of the world can spread infectious disease. The following are some examples:

Mosquito bites can transmit several diseases, including

Flea bites can transmit

Lice may transmit

Some other insect bites and the diseases they can cause include

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