Insect Stings and Spider Bites

Summer time is here along with more outdoor activities. Outdoor activities also bring increased exposure to insect stings and spider bites, which often cause minor swelling, redness, pain, and itching. These mild reactions are common and may last from a few hours to a few days. Home treatment is often all that is needed to relieve the symptoms. Take precautions when spending time outdoors such as applying appropriate insect repellent and avoiding peak insect hours. Below are some common insect sting and spider bite symptoms.


Mosquito Bites

Mosquito bites typically occur at dusk or at night as mosquitoes swarm. Spring and summer seasons are the worst. Mosquito bite symptoms typically occur hours or days later. Redness and itching on and around bites is common. Swelling may occur as itching aggravates bite sites. Virus infected mosquitoes can spread the West Nile virus to people, causing an inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Parasitic infected mosquitoes can spread malaria.

Fire Ant Bites

Fire ant bites have symptoms similar to other insect or bug bites. However, a fire ant's bite is painful. A fire ant attaches to a person by biting with its jaws. Then, pivoting its head, it stings from its belly in a circular pattern at multiple sites.Redness typically surrounds the bite forming lighter colored rings around a darker center. Pain is present as symptoms progress. Runners of redness will shoot out from the bite area at times. Fever, nausea, aches, tiredness, and other flu-like symptoms may occur.

Bees, Hornets, Wasps

Stings from bees, hornets and wasps cause more deaths than bites from all other insects and spiders. Death may result from an allergic reaction. If stung by a bee, check the wound to see if the stinger is still there. If it is, flick it out with something stiff, such as cardboard or a credit card. A bee leaves its stinger behind and then dies afterwards.

Africanized honeybees, the so-called killer bees, are more aggressive than common honeybees and often attack together in great numbers. Meanwhile, wasps,can sting repetitively.

Symptoms typically include pain and swelling. Atypical symptoms can signal the onset of an allergic reaction. There are two types of allergic reactions.

  • Swelling at the bite or sting site becomes excessive, and the patient may experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headache.
  • A severe, sometimes life-threatening, reaction can cause puffiness or swelling of the eyes, nose and lips. The tongue and throat can also swell and breathing difficulties may develop.

If you experience any severe reaction, call 9-1-1 immediately.


Chigger Bites

Chigger bites produce small raised red lesions on the skin. Bites can cause pain and itching. Symptoms may be similar to contact dermatitis or poison ivy or oak rash. Hypersensitive persons may experience swelling or blistering. Itching may cause chigger bite areas to spread and appear as a rash.

Tick Bites

Tick bites are noticed after redness, pain, discomfort or swelling occur in the area of the tick bite. Blisters, rash and itching may also occur. Early removal of the tick body and head followed by thorough cleaning is beneficial. While most ticks do not carry diseases, some ticks can cause the following:

  • Lyme disease,
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Colorado Tick Fever
  • Tularemia.

Watch for symptoms of these diseases in the weeks following a tick bite. Symptoms include muscle or joint aches, stiff neck, headache, weakness, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and other flu-like symptoms. Watch for a red spot or rash starting at the location of the bite.

Flea Bites

Flea bites typically begin as a rash with small bumps that itch and may bleed. Bites are typically located on the armpit, in a crease of skin or joint (arm or leg) of the body where fleas hide. A larger skin area may be affected over time as bite areas enlarge. Touching bites will turn bite areas white. Itching may be localized or can become generalized and may result in severe itching. Swelling around flea bites or rash areas my result and take several day to subside. Symptoms can begin suddenly.

Spider Bites

There are almost 20,000 spider species, and all of them have venom. Some spider venom are more powerful than others. Fortunately, most spiders are not dangerous because their fangs are either too short or too fragile to penetrate human skin. Spiders rarely bite more than once so multiple bites are usually caused by insects such as fleas, bedbugs, ticks, mites and biting flies.

Brown Recluse Spider

Named for its habit of hiding in dark corners, the brown recluse spider is also known as the violin or fiddleback spider because of a violin-shaped mark on its head. Usually about a half-inch long (including legs), the brown recluse has no marking on the tail end section, which is solid light brown. The brown recluse has six eyes rather than the typical eight eyes. Spider experts agree that the true brown recluse is native only to Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

The brown recluse spider bite usually causes some pain or burning in the first 10 minutes, accompanied by itching. The wound takes on a bull's-eye appearance, with a center blister surrounded first by an angry red ring and then by a blanched (white) ring. This blister breaks open leaving an open ulcer that scabs over. The ulcer can enlarge and involve underlying skin and muscle tissue. Pain may be severe. A generalized red, itchy rash usually appears in the first 24-48 hours. Other symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and hemolytic anemia.

Treatment consists of washing the wound. In case of infection, an ulcer that does not heal, or a rash, see a physician.

Black Widow Spider

The black widow is a shiny, inky black spider with a large round tail segment. Only the female is dangerous to humans. Including its legs, the black widow generally measures from one-half inch to one inch in length.

Red to orange colored markings, usually in the shape of an hourglass, are always found on the underside of the belly. Black widow spiders generally live in trash, wood piles, garages and other dark places. A black widow spider bite gives the appearance of a target, with a pale area surrounded by a red ring.

Severe muscle pain and cramps generally develop within the first two hours. Severe cramps are usually felt first in the back, shoulders, abdomen and thighs. Other symptoms include weakness, sweating, headache, anxiety, itching, nausea, vomiting, difficult breathing and increased blood pressure. Young children, the elderly and those with high blood pressure are at highest risk from a black widow spider bite.

If a person is bitten by a black widow spider, do not panic. Wash the area well with soap and water. If muscle cramps develop, take the patient to the nearest hospital. A black widow spider bite is rarely life-threatening, although young children, especially, may be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation and treatment. Various medications are used to treat the muscle cramps, spasms and pain of a black widow spider bite.

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