How do I treat an insect bite?

Bug bite reactions occur when a body is allergic to an insect’s saliva and when the bug’s secretions enter the bloodstream. Depending on the insect you encountered, a bite will often cause a small, red bump, or localized hives (one large or several small bumps). If your bite is itchy, it was likely caused by a mosquito, harvest mites, fleas, or bedbugs. If the bite is painful, you likely encountered a horsefly, deer fly, gnats, ants, centipedes, or blister beetles.

An insect bite will often remain itchy for several days, but redness should only persist for around 72 hours. Swelling may last as long as seven days, but if you believe the condition to be serious, call a doctor. The most dangerous bites usually come from spiders, but almost any bug can be dangerous if you’re allergic or have some other special vulnerability to that bug.

If you are having an acute reaction to a bug bite and want to get it checked out, but don't believe it's a life-threatening emergency, our urgent care clinic is a great option. If you're working late, visit our Aurora urgent care clinic which is open 7 days a week from 8am—9pm.

Treating at Home

Most bug bites can be treated with a steroid cream. Hydrocortisone cream, applied three times every day, can significantly reduce itching. Similarly, icing the bite for twenty minutes will work to reduce swelling. If itching persists, an allergy medicine, such as Benadryl, may help. If you are experiencing a painful insect bite, combine baking soda and water, then soak a cotton ball. Rub the bite with the saturated cotton ball for 15 to 20 minutes to reduce the pain. Tylenol and ibuprofen are also excellent options for handling painful reactions. If you believe your bite or sting to be infected, use an antibiotic ointment, such as Polysporin. Apply the ointment three times per day to prevent impetigo, a bacterial infection often caused by scratching with dirty fingers. If the infection spreads of if other symptoms emerge, it’s time to see the doctor.

You can also read our other resources for bug bites in Colorado.

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