Does a mosquito bite leave you scratching for days while your family and friends barely notice their bites? Dr. Jorge Mota, a family medicine physician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, explains why some people are likely to itch after a bug bite and how to get relief.
The most common bugs that cause allergic reactions are mosquitoes, bed bugs and fleas. Less common bugs include ticks and kissing bugs. Stinging insects such as bees, wasps, hornets and fire ants inject a toxic substance that could also result in an allergic response. Cockroaches and dust mites can cause allergies or worsen asthma without biting.
“Almost everyone is sensitive to bug bites, but some people develop a more intense immune response than others do,” explains Dr. Mota. “If you are in this more sensitive group, you may experience significant itchiness and swelling, due to an increase in histamine and immunoglobulin response. This discomfort can sometimes last longer than a few days.”
Most reactions to bug bites are mild and can include minor itching, localized redness, swelling and some pain. These symptoms usually subside within hours to a couple of days. However, serious reactions could result in difficulty breathing; swelling of the lips, eyelids or throat; dizziness; confusion; rapid heartbeat; nausea; abdominal pain; or vomiting.
Bug bites usually improve within a day or two. However, Dr. Mota recommends contacting your physician if your symptoms worsen, such as a rash that spreads from the bite location to other parts of your body, or if you are having issues such as drainage, bleeding, severe swelling or pain. You should call 911 immediately if you are experiencing difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing or swelling of the eyelids, lips or throat.
For mild reactions, wash the affected area with soap and water to avoid infection. You can apply a cool compress to help with pain or swelling. If you need additional pain relief, you may take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. To help with itching, avoid scratching and try an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine, or applying topical calamine lotion, hydrocortisone ointment or aloe vera gel.