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Bug bites itch, can be an eyesore, and always have you asking, “Does this look normal?” The first step is to figure out what bit you. Here are the most common biting bugs and what to watch for:


North American mosquitoes are generally harmless but can sometimes carry diseases, including the West Nile virus. In tropical climates (Africa, Central and South America), mosquitoes can carry malaria, Zika virus, yellow fever, and other nasty diseases.

Call a doctor if you experience the following symptoms, which could be signs of a mosquito-borne illness:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Scratching mosquito bites might seem like a solution for your itch, but it’s actually the opposite — and might create an open wound, which could lead to infection. Topical hydrocortisone (OTC) cream or a prescription steroid cream along with an antihistamine can help with the itching.

Bees and Wasps

When bees and wasps are startled, they may see you as a threat and react with a sting. So, leaving them along is a good place to start.

If you’re stung by a bee, it’ll leave behind its stinger, which should be visible. On the other hand, wasps (which include yellow jackets), usually just leave you with sudden pain and a small, red bump.

Some allergic reactions to stings can be severe, so if you experience shortness of breath or any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face or throat
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Convulsions
  • Vomiting
  • Prior history of severe reaction to stings

Apply ice or a cool compress to the sting. Take an antihistamine (like Benadryl). If you have been prescribed an EpiPen injector due to previous severe reactions, use it! Milder reactions do not usually require a trip to the ER, but you should still call a doctor to discuss your symptoms and next steps. Multiple stings (any more than five) require immediate medical attention.


“Spider bites” are relatively rare events. They can appear much larger and itch much more than mosquito bites.

Spider bites can result in itching and red bumps, a lot like a mosquito bite. The only dangerous North American spiders are the Black Widow and Brown Recluse. These bites can cause painful and obvious signs:

  • Severe and local pain
  • Cramping
  • Ulcers or puss
  • Necrotic wound
  • Call a First Stop Health doctor right away if you suspect a Black Widow bite or show any of the symptoms above.


Ticks are common in forested or grassy areas and can latch on quickly to bare skin. Ticks can carry a variety of illnesses, the most common of which is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial illness spread through the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick.

To reduce your risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses:

  • Stay out of tick-prone (brushy or wooded) areas
  • Have your yard professionally sprayed annually (if you live in an endemic zone)
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants outdoors
  • Spray your shoes, pants, and socks with permethrin (not while you are wearing them) and let them dry before wearing
  • Spray your skin with 20% DEET (not for small children)
  • Search your skin for ticks after being outside
  • Use tweezers to carefully remove ticks (without squeezing) if found on your skin. Save the tick (in a sealed plastic bag or jar) for identification and possible testing.
  • Tick bites start as a small, red flat rash. Unlike a mosquito bite, they do not itch.

Talk to a First Stop Health doctor if you develop:

  • An expanding red rash that may have a “bull’s eye” center
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Extreme fatigue

Lyme disease can cause severe and long-lasting symptoms if treatment is delayed. If caught early, however, it can be treated. Other tick-borne illnesses, including Babesiosis, Powassan fever, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, can be serious as well. A First Stop Health doctor visit can diagnose and begin treatment of tick-borne diseases.

Fleas, Bed Bugs, and Chiggers

Any of these bites will feel itchy, but are usually harmless. These insects don’t normally carry diseases (rarely, fleas can carry plague, mainly in the desert southwest and great plains), but scratching can cause infection. If you exhibit puss, swelling, or signs of local infection, call a First Stop Health doctor.

Bed bugs are a common nuisance and can be identified by the reddish-brown stains they leave on mattresses and bedsheets. Adult bed bugs are about the size and color of an apple seed. Their bites are small, red and itchy, and often appear in a line. They are typically first noticed upon waking up in the morning. Bed bugs can easily spread by latching onto clothing and traveling to other homes, office lounges, or shared school cubbies. If you suspect bed bugs, research the rash and their removal here.

The good news is that bed bugs don’t carry disease. In rare cases, they may cause an allergic reaction. Call a doctor if you experience:

  • Enlarged bite marks
  • Painful swelling

First Stop Health Can Help!

Do you or your kid have a nasty-looking bite? Are you showing some of the signs above? Our doctors are always here and can advise you immediately on the next steps. For more information or to request a free consultation, Alliance Health Plan members can visit

First Stop Health, our telemedicine service available to Alliance health plan participants, provides 24/7 virtual treatment and care from U.S.-based and licensed physicians for various health concerns. From the flu to a bug bite, First Stop Health is just a click away, saves participants health-care dollars, and provides top-notch service. They believe access to health care should be convenient, affordable, and transparent.