When should I go to the doctor for a bug bite?

Most bug bites can be treated at home. Hydrocortisone cream and topical/oral antihistamines work quickly to reduce swelling and itching. However, if a scab looks infected, or if a bite’s swelling does not reduce within several days of the initial event, it’s time to see a doctor. Consider visiting a health clinic if you experience any of the following:

 

  • Multiple stings or bites in a short period of time (regardless of immediate reaction)
  • Rapidly spreading redness
  • New redness around the area starts more than 24 hours after the bite
  • Redness exceeds a radius of one inch
  • Continuous, severe pain
  • Fever or flu-like symptoms coupled with infected-looking bite

 

An urgent care center can help you identify the nature and severity of the bite. They can ease your discomfort, prescribe antibiotics for infection, and rule out the worst-case scenarios following an unfortunate run-in with the offending bug.

 

When to Go to the Emergency Room

Some bites and stings may present an immediate life-threatening danger for which you should go to the ER. These reactions are likely to occur between the bite itself and one hour post-contact and include one or more of the following symptoms.

 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • A throat-closing sensation
  • Wheezing, hoarseness, or trouble speaking
  • Swollen lips, tongue, or face
  • Chest pain
  • Stiff neck (can’t touch chin to chest)
  • A racing heartbeat that outlasts the initial adrenaline
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache

 

These symptoms represent a range of dangerous reactions such as anaphylaxis, cellulitis, and lymphangitis. However, the indicators are not always evident, and they may take time to develop into a serious-looking condition. Generally, an allergic reaction is an emergency if it happens in two or more of the following body systems: skin, digestive system, respiratory system, and cardiovascular system. For example, if you feel slight throat tightness (respiratory system) with a rapid heartbeat (cardiovascular system), you should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

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

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