What are insect bites?
Insect bites are puncture wounds inflicted by insects of varying kinds which could include midges (commonly found in Scotland, UK), mosquitoes, bedbugs, ticks, horseflies, and ants. The best treatment for insect bites vary from place to place, and can come in a few different forms, of which we will go into detail in this article.
Most of these biting insects will tend to cause a raised red lump of a fairly small diameter which may be itchy, and sometimes inflammed. In the case of the Scottish or Highland midge which tend to swarm in great numbers there are liable to be a number of wounds although the reaction in most people is likely to be minor and only rarely cause an allergic reaction. On the other hand a horsefly bite is more likely to be a single wound which is more painful due to the larger mandibles which cut through the skin rather than piercing it and so cause a nasty weal which may take a while to heal and in some cases become infected.
What are the causes of insect bites?
Insect bites are caused by exposure to one of a number of biting insects which prey off human blood. Many insects are parasitic in that they live off a host rather than consuming it and humans provide another outlet for that diet although insects are most likely to concentrate their attentions on other animals such as livestock. In the specific case of bed bugs an infestation may occur as a result of them being hitchhiked in on pets, or clothing and luggage, through adjacent dwellings where there is a way for them to infiltrate the home, from wild animals that have entered the home or simply from other people. While they were for the most part eradicated in the West during the early part of the twentieth century, there have been increasing reports of their resurgence which may be a result of increased foreign travel, or their resistance to pesticides. While most of the insect bites that occur are a direct result of parasitism in terms of the feeding on human blood, ants for instance will use its bite/sting merely as a defensive reaction to encroachment on its colony. For this reason it is obviously important to take measures to avoid disturbing an ants nest when hiking, camping or working in the countryside, in the same way that it’s prudent to stay away from wasp’s nests or beehives. If these colonies appear in your garden or near your home and begin causing a direct nuisance then it is advisable to employ a professional pest control technician to expunge the problem.
What are the symptoms of insect bites?
The symptoms of insect bites vary according to the particular offending insects, and the sensitivity of the individual who has been bitten. The majority of insect bites cause itching and swelling as well as a raised red lump which normally clears up within a matter of a few hours. Midges, mosquitoes and gnats cause small raised lumps which are often itchy, while fleas often cause bite-marks in lines or clusters.While bedbug bites are for the most part painless they will tend to cause rashes on the affected area. Similarly tick bites are not painful, partly due to the analgesic
which is administered via the insects saliva however sometimes causes swelling, itchiness and blistering as well as in very rare instaces passing on a bacterial infection called Borrelia burgdorferi which leads to Lyme disease. Lyme disease if left untreated can have serious effects and the initial infection will cause a red rash which expands outwards from the localised area of the bite, however it is very rare in the UK. Other secondary complications that can arise from an insect bite are bacterial infections such as impetigo, cellulitis, and folliculitis, West Nile Virus which causes flu-like symptoms and is passed on by mosquitos (no reported cases in the UK), and malaria which is a serious tropical disease.
What is the best treatment for insect bites?
As previously mentioned the majority of insect bites require no definitive treatment and the symptoms will likely heal of their own accord often without even being noticed. However, minor bites can be treated with simple measures such as washing with soap and water, placing a cold compress on the area that has been bitten in the case of inflammation, and avoiding antagonising the bite-wound or running the risk of infection by not scratching it. If the bite is particularly painful then any one of a number of over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or perhaps more appropriately for its anti-inflammatory function ibuprofen should suffice in ameliorating the problem.
If, on the other hand, the symptoms are particularly severe, the bite-mark is larger in size such as in the case of a horsefly bite, and/or there are signs of infection, then it is always recommended to visit your doctor or a medical practitioner for a more compehensive diagnosis/treatment, perhaps including antibiotics. If you, or someone you are with suffer from a serious alergic reaction, or anaphylaxis where shortness of breath or wheezing occur then it is advisable to call emergency services.
Where can I find the best treatment for insect bites?
The above treatments can be found in your local chemist (some will require a prescription), however, it is our recommendation to you to always consult with your local GP before undertaking any final treatment.
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