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Infected Insect Bites

Infected Insect Bites


Infected Insect Bite

If you or your loved one is worried about an insect bite, visit us at Star Pharmacy. We are here to help without the need for you to book a GP appointment. Our pharmacists can offer effective treatment recommendations through the NHS Pharmacy First Service, including both over-the-counter and prescription-only insect bite treatment options.



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What is an insect bite?

Typically, insect bites or stings are not serious, and they usually get better in a few days. However, sometimes they can become infected or cause an allergic reaction.

Insects that bite or sting in the UK can include bedbugs, fleas, midges, mosquitoes, bees, wasps, and hornets, as well as some arachnids (8-legged spiders), mites, and ticks.

Bites from certain insects can cause specific illnesses, such as Lyme disease from ticks and malaria from mosquitoes in specific parts of the world.

What are the symptoms of an infected insect bite?

Infected insect bites can cause a range of symptoms that typically worsen over time. It is important to recognise these signs and seek medical attention as soon as you can if you think you have an infected bite, or if your insect bite is not getting better.

The symptoms of an infected insect bite can include:

  • Increased redness
  • Swelling 
  • Heat 
  • Pain 
  • Pus or discharge
  • Itchiness 
  • Increased tenderness 
  • Fever and malaise 

What causes an insect bite to become infected?

Infected insect bites occur when bacteria or other pathogens enter the body through the bite wound. Reasons for the bite to become infected can include:

  • Bacterial ingress – the puncture wound of a bite or sting allows bacteria to enter and multiply, leading to an infection.
  • Scratching – itching is a common reaction to insect bites. Scratching can damage the skin’s protective layer and open space for bacteria from under the fingernails to penetrate the wound.
  • Infected insect vectors – some insects/arachnids such as ticks and fleas can carry bacteria and other pathogens that can be transmitted into the bloodstream when they bite. For example, Lyme disease is caused by a species of bacteria called Borrelia. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick.

How to prevent infected insect bites

To prevent an infected insect bite, it’s best to avoid getting bitten in the first place – especially when travelling abroad.

General advice includes avoiding places and times of the day when insects will be prevalent and using insect repellents. Covering exposed areas of the skin is also helpful.

It is also a good idea to research which travel vaccinations you may need when travelling to certain parts of the world.

How to ease the symptoms of an insect bite

If you have been bitten, you can help to ease your symptoms and reduce your chances of getting infected by:

  • Not scratching the bite or sting
  • Wrapping an ice pack in a clean flannel, or a flannel soaked in cold water, and holding it against the bite to reduce swelling
  • Keeping the affected area raised if you can
  • Using paracetamol or ibuprofen if the sting is painful
  • Use antihistamines to relieve any itching
  • Using a mild steroid cream, such as hydrocortisone, to reduce swelling and itching
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Infected Insect Bites

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