Insect bites and stings


Insect bites are puncture wounds, or lacerations, caused by insects. In the UK, insects that bite include:

  • midges
  • gnats
  • mosquitoes
  • fleas
  • bedbugs
  • horseflies or clegs.

When an insect bites, it releases a form of saliva that can cause symptoms such as inflammation, blisters, and irritation.

Symptoms vary according to the type of insect involved, and the sensitivity of the person bitten. For example, a bite may result in a small, itchy lump that lasts for just a few days, or it can lead to a more serious reaction, such as papular urticaria (see the 'Diagnosis' section).

You are more likely to be bitten by an insect if you work outdoors or regularly take part in outdoor activities such as camping or hiking. If large areas of your skin are exposed, such as on your arms or legs, these areas are more are more vulnerable to being bitten by an insect.

Although some insect bites can cause severe reactions, it is unusual to catch diseases from them in the UK. However, in certain countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, the risk of catching diseases such as malaria is much greater.

Last updated: 25 July 2013

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