Find information on medical topics, symptoms, drugs, procedures, news and more, written in everyday language.

* This is the Consumer Version. *

Insect Bites

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

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

  • Bedbugs

  • 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.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

  • Generic Name
    Select Brand Names
  • ADRENALIN