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How To Treat Common Bug Bites


Updated May 19, 2014

a mosquito
WildTurkey/Wikimedia Commons
Insects, spiders, and scorpions are capable of causing very painful reactions. Bites and stings can be dangerous, but are rarely fatal.

Bug bites are dangerous because of the possibility of anaphylaxis.

Spider bites and scorpion stings can be more worrisome. The reality, however, is that most bites are from unidentified bugs.

There are specific treatments for bee stings and removing ticks.

Time Required: N/A

Here's How:

  1. Stay Safe! Follow universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if you have it. If a stinger is present, follow the directions for treating bee stings.

  2. Apply an ice pack to the site of the sting. Alternate on and off to prevent tissue damage - usually 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.

  3. If the victim exhibits any of the following, consider the possibility of anaphylaxis:
    • itching
    • swelling (other than the site of the sting)
    • shortness of breath
    • heart palpitations
    • chest pain
    • weakness
    • dizziness
    • hives or redness

  4. If the victim has any involuntary muscle movements, call 911 immediately.

  5. Try to identify the bug. If the bug is dead, scoop it up and take it with you to the emergency department. Be careful, even dead bugs have venom.

  6. For pain relief, try sting swabs (compare prices). Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are also good for pain.
  7. Bark scorpion stings can cause numbness and tingling in the tissue around the bite. If the site is tingling or burning, see a doctor.


  1. Spiders like damp, dark areas the best. Be aware around wood piles, attics, and cellars.
  2. The two common North American poisonous spiders are the black widow and the brown recluse.
  3. Scorpions are undeniably ugly but rarely fatal pests. Arizona, New Mexico, some of Nevada and Utah, and the California side of the Colorado River are known for the bark scorpion, a particularly nasty critter.
  4. Scorpions come out at night, so take care to check bedding before snuggling in. Scorpions are also notorious stowaways; inspect baggage before and after heading home.
  5. There is an antitoxin available for bark scorpions, but it is only available in Arizona and it is not FDA-approved.
Related Video
How to Treat Children's Bug Bites
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