Common insect bites and stings

From mosquitos and sandflies to wasps and bees — there is no shortage of insects that bite and sting leaving you itchy and sore. When it comes to bites and stings it’s important to know ‘what’ you are dealing with so you can provide effective insect bites treatment and relief.

Insect bites symptoms and first aid

Most bites and stings may cause minor symptoms such as mild itching, pain or swelling and will typically clear up over a couple of days. First wash the area with soap and water and then keep it clean and dry. You can use ice and cool running water to help reduce any swelling and help relieve any pain. Using products such as Stingose Gel or Spray are also ideal at this point to help relieve the pain, itching and inflammation that follows most bites and stings.

Don’t use tourniquets, or cut the bite or sting site or try to suck out the ‘venom’!

Not everyone reacts to bites and stings the same way— sometimes reactions can be serious and life threatening. If you are experiencing a severe reaction, seek medical attention immediately — insect bite symptoms of a severe allergic reaction to watch-out for include:

  • Swelling of the tongue or throat
  • Difficulty breathing or talking
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Dizziness

Common Bites and Stings

Here’s how to recognise and treat some common insect bites and stings we may encounter when out and about:

1. Mosquito bites symptoms and treatment
Mosquito bites are typically small, round, puffy bumps which appear almost immediately after being bitten. They quickly become hard, red and itchy, and usually last a couple of days. You may find that you get multiple mosquito bites at the same time, around the same area.

Once bitten, wash and clean the area. Most mosquito bites are mild, however, the pain and itchiness can be treated with icepacks, antihistamines and insect bite relief products such as Stingose.

2. Sandfly bites symptoms and treatment
Bites from sandflies (also known as biting midges) are typically painful and itchy, though the severity of the reaction varies from person to person. The bites may form blisters or red bumps which can last for days or weeks. Unlike mosquito bites, the itching may not start until several hours after the bite.

Sandfly bites typically resolve themselves without treatment, however, icepacks, antihistamines and topical anti-itch products can help alleviate the painful and itchy symptoms.

3. Ant bites symptoms and treatment
Ants can bite and sting! Ants sting using the stinger located near their tail and bite using their mandibles and mouth parts. Some species of ant can bite and sting whereas others can do neither – but spray formic acid at you!

Generally, ant bites/stings result in a localised raised, bumpy rash (hives). More serious bites/stings such as fire ant bites can cause an itchy pustule lasting a few days to weeks.

Ant bites/stings can be very painful (particularly from fire ants) and the immediate treatment involves washing the area and applying a cool compress to minimise swelling. Following that, antihistamines, topical insect bite relief products and over-the-counter pain medication can be used to alleviate the pain and itching.

4. Bee stings symptoms and treatment
Bee stings are usually painful, red, swollen and itchy. The site of the stings will typically swell and turn red, with a white spot where the skin was punctured. Some bees can only sting once as they leave their stinger in the skin.

Bee sting first aid: Remove the stinger as soon as possible to minimise the amount of venom injected in the skin. Don’t use tweezers to pull it out as it may cause more venom to be released – instead, try removing the sting by gently scraping or sliding a sharp object across it, such as a bank card or a fingernail. Following that, wash the area and apply ice or a cold pack and a soothing cream. Oral antihistamines can be taken to minimise the itching.

5. Wasp stings symptoms and treatment
A raised, red welt will typically appear around the site of a wasp sting, accompanied by a sharp pain and a itching or burning sensation. Wasps are aggressive and, unlike bees, they don’t tend to leave their stinger behind, which means they are capable of stinging multiple times!

When you are stung, clean the affected area and use ice or a cold pack to reduce the swelling. Pain medication, antihistamines or a soothing gel/spray such as Stingose can be used to help relieve the pain and itching.

6. Sea lice bites symptoms and treatment
Typical symptoms of sea lice bites include an immediate prickling sensation followed by itchiness. Red bumps then form and can merge to form a large itchy rash which can lasts up to 2 weeks.

The irritation is generally mild to moderate, and can be treated with over-the-counter products to minimise itching.

Insect bites generally clear up over a couple of days. If the stings or bites appear to worsen, look infected or don’t heal after several weeks, contact your doctor or pharmacist.