When Should You Seek Urgent or Emergency Care for a Bug Bite?


With summer in full swing, there is no shortage of insects buzzing around. While most of these are just a nuisance, some of them can be dangerous. Certain insect bites and stings can lead to serious complications, allergic reactions, and even death if not treated properly.

Fortunately, most insect bites and stings can be treated at home. However, not all of them can. Those living in areas where insects are common should learn to spot the signs of different types of bites and the symptoms they can cause. Doing so will help you decide if the bite can be treated at home, in an urgent care clinic, or if an emergency room visit is necessary.


Different Types of Bites and Stings

There are countless insects that can bite or sting. However, almost all of these are non-threatening and will quickly clear on their own with the only symptom being some minor itching. However, there are a few types that can be dangerous to humans. These are a few of the most common insect bites and stings that you should be aware of:

  • Bees: While bees are great for pollinating, their sting can be painful. For those who are allergic to it, it can be deadly. Their sting won’t be missed when it happens. Typically, it will be followed by a painful, red, swollen bite. However, those with an allergy may experience trouble breathing, swelling of the mouth or throat, hives, nausea, and severe itching.
  • Mosquitos: Almost everyone has been bitten by a mosquito. These pesky bloodsuckers are a nuisance in almost every part of the country. While the mass majority of mosquito bites are harmless, the insect is a carrier for dangerous diseases like West Nile Virus and Zika. Anyone bitten by a mosquito who then experiences nausea, fever, swollen lymph nodes, a rash, or a prolonged headache should visit the emergency room.
  • Spiders: While a spider bite is more dangerous than a mosquito bite, most species won’t actually bite humans. Of those that do, only the black widow and brown recluse are prevalent in the United States. A black widow, which bears a distinct red hourglass on its black body can cause blood pressure spikes and seizures that require emergency treatment. Meanwhile, the brown recluse’s bite mainly affects the skin. It looks like a red bullseye before turning black and blistering. A bite by either type of spider requires emergency care. Otherwise, unless a spider bite is followed by fever, chills, or nausea, it is likely harmless. Just don’t expect any superpowers from it.
  • Ticks: A tick bite is different from most other insects because it actually attaches itself into the skin. While the bite itself isn’t dangerous, ticks carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If a rash, fever, or muscle aches follow a tick bite, you should seek medical care. Even if these symptoms don’t appear, checking in after a tick bite isn’t a bad idea. If you can’t easily get the tick out on your own, you should also seek care since only removing part of the insect can cause more problems.
  • Fire ants: Ant bites are some of the most painful in the insect world. Fire ants specifically carry a toxin that leaves behind red, blistering marks. They also tend to latch on to a victim and bite several times. While one sting isn’t a big deal, a cluster of bites in a short time allows the toxin to build up. This can lead to allergic reaction symptoms like difficulty breathing, dizziness, and hives.

How to Treat Insect Bites at Home

Anyone bit or stung by an insect who doesn’t experience symptoms of an allergic reaction or one of the other conditions discussed above can likely treat it at home. The first step should be to get inside and away from the source of the bite.

Then, you should gently wash the bite with warm soapy water. You can apply an ice pack or cold compress to the area to help prevent and reduce swelling from the bite. Over the counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help with pain. An antihistamine like Benadryl may help relieve itching at the site. However, it should not be used as a replacement for emergency care if allergy symptoms arise.


When to Seek Emergency Care

Insect bites that lead to an allergic reaction or dangerous illness aren’t something to mess around with. If you are stung or bit and experience hives, difficulty breathing, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, or swelling around the face, you should seek care at the emergency room. These may be signs of a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis that can cause death if not treated.

Meanwhile, anyone exhibiting symptoms from a disease carried by one of the insects above should consider visiting the emergency room. Most of those conditions can be treated with antibiotics if they are caught early.


When to Seek Urgent Care

Should you get stung by an insect this summer, Velocity Urgent Care is here to help. For any bite that you don’t feel comfortable treating at home but isn’t an allergic reaction, urgent care is the perfect solution. Our team of knowledgeable and board-certified practitioners can evaluate the bite and provide prescriptions for pain and itch relief, decreasing swelling, and preventing complications.


With 14 convenient locations across Virginia, we’re ready to provide high-quality care on your schedule. You can book an appointment online ahead of time or walk in and be seen by our friendly staff at any time.  We are the exclusive in-network provider for several local insurance plans meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible. All Velocity Urgent Care locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare.