How to Identify and Treat Common Bug Bites
Although most bug bites are relatively harmless, some types of bites and/or stings can be significantly serious. Never ignore the distinctions between minor discomfort and serious physical complications. In essence:
- Define aggravation as a harmless itch
- Define serious as a demand for advanced medical attention
- Never forget that some bites can include exposure to various dangerous diseases.
In this article, the Charlotte pest control specialists at Carolina Pest Management help you respond to the sometimes critical question of “What bug bit me?”
Biting Bugs Most Common To North Carolina
Some Charlotte-regional pests are native. Others are immigrants. A few such as the recluse spider listed above show up only rarely. In fact, only four critters dominate the top of the NC biters and stinging lists:
Typically reddish-brown to black in color, paper wasps are most aggressive during spring hatching. With spindle-shaped abdomens, and long thin legs, they are rather easy to identify.
What bug bit me? Paper wasps…
- Sharp pain that soon switches to a burning sensation
- Involves minor swelling accompanied by redness and itching
- Can sting more than once, but may also involve a lodged stinger.
To treat paper wasp stings, remove the stinger with tweezers and wash the area with mild soap and warm water to remove as much venom as possible. Towel dry and then use a cold compress to reduce swelling and discomfort. Apply hydrocortisone cream to manage any itching.
If you see signs of an allergic reaction such as wheezing, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, confusion, nausea, or vomiting, you should see a doctor immediately. Individuals with allergies are at risk for anaphylactic shock and may need immediate treatment with epinephrine.
You can help prevent wasps from being nearby your home by keeping yards free of trash and debris. Never leave out leftover food or standing water. If you find any hives or nests on your property, contact a professional about removal.
Imported Red Fire Ant
Common through the state, this reddish to dark brown native of Brazil ranges from 1/8 to 1/3 inches in length. Bites from swarming fire ants can be fatal to children and others if allergies come into play.
What bug bit me? Fire ants…
- Stings appear as swollen red spots that typically blister on top
- It hurts
- It itches
- It appears in groups.
Blisters at the site of the fire ant stings are normal. Blisters usually form within 12 hours and there can be significant swelling. Put ice on the area for 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off to get quick relief. Severe allergic reactions to fire ant stings are rare, but can occur. Get immediate help if you have any symptoms that include difficulty breathing, dizziness, vomiting, and confusion.
Unfortunately, large areas with multiple fire ant mounds can be challenging to control. Pest control specialists find that baits broadcast bi-annually work best for reducing fire ant colony sizes drastically. Contact a pest control provider if you notice fire ant mounts on your property.
Known to carry deadly diseases such as malaria, Zika virus, west Nile virus and yellow fever, mosquitoes thrive in the warm, moist North Carolina climate.
What bug bit me? Mosquitoes…
- Immediately after the bite, you will experience a round, puffy bump
- Shortly, the bump becomes hard, red and swollen
- Often the bites are multiple and in the same area.
To treat any itchiness and discomfort caused by mosquito bites, use calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. You can also soothe the bite by applying a paste made from baking soda and a small amount of water. Place cool compresses for more relief. If you experience prolonged itching and discomfort at the bite site, contact a physician. Also, if you have any symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, and fatigue, let your doctor know. Mosquitoes can transmit diseases and your doctor may want to evaluate your symptoms.
You can reduce your likelihood of encountering mosquitos by treating your yard seasonally. Mosquito control products reduce mosquito populations and therefore put you at a reduced risk for bites.
Both black flies and midgets are known to swarm in the thousands. Whereas midgets are most common to coastal regions, black flies breed in all North Carolina streams.
What bug bit me? Biting flies…
- Reactions differ
- Bites of black flies range from small punctures to swelling as large as a golf ball
- May also induce fever, headache, nausea and swelling in the lymph nodes
- Bites from Sand Flies typically cause red bumps and blisters.
If you’re bitten by a black fly or midget, wash the affected area with soap and water to reduce your risk of infection. Then, apply ice to the affected area in 10 to 15 minute intervals to reduce the swelling. If you have itching or other disruptive symptoms, apply cortisone or a topical steroid. If bites don’t heal or stop itching after several days, see your doctor. They can prescribe stronger topical steroids to treat the bites and evaluate whether or not you have an infection.
Like other outdoor pests, it’s difficult to completely control biting flies. However, you can reduce your risk by covering up exposed skin, using insect repellent, and using fans to circulate the air and make it more difficult for biting flies to get to you.
Other Local Biting Arachnids, Bugs and Insects
Bed Bug Bites
Symptoms: Bed bug bites are typically grouped together and have a swollen red area with dark red center. They often blister and are known for causing hives.
First Aid Treatment: Clean beg bug bites with antiseptic soap and warm water, then apply a topical antibiotic cream. Use topical or oral antihistamines to alleviate any itching.
When to See a Doctor: Contact a doctor if the bed bug bites turn into hives, since this indicates an allergy that may require more advanced treatment.
Prevention: Prevent bed bug bites by taking precautions while traveling. Check bedding for live bed bugs, larvae, or blood spots and select different accommodations if you notice any. If you notice a bed bug infestation in your own home, you should treat the bed bugs aggressively and immediately with a professional service at the earliest signs of the pests.
Symptoms: Chigger bites typically appear in groups and show up as blisters, hives, pimples and welts located in skin folds.
First Aid Treatment: Chigger first aid includes stopping the itching associated with the bites. These bug bites start itching a few hours after the attack with symptoms continuing for up to a week. Start off by showering immediately after exposure to chiggers. Use hydrocortisone cream to alleviate itching on the skin and an antihistamine for other allergy symptoms.
When to See a Doctor: Bug bites that don’t heal after a few days may require medical assistance. Your doctor may need to administer a steroid shot or give you a course of antibiotics to relieve symptoms.
Prevention: Wear protective clothing with long sleeves and pants to avoid exposure to chigger bites. Use insect repellent sprays while outdoors and shower after hiking. Home chigger infestations will likely require outside assistance to deal with properly.
Symptoms: Red bumps. Itchy. Surrounded by red halo. Typically located on feet and lower legs.
First Aid Treatment: Clean the bite area with antiseptic soap and warm water. If you experience any swelling, use an ice pack for 10-minute intervals. For any itching, apply calamine lotion to the affected skin.
When to See a Doctor: If a flea bite looks infected and has not healed after several days, notify your doctor. You may notice pus draining from the wound, which is another sign that you should see a physician for more advanced treatment. Tapeworm is transmitted through flea bites and your doctor may want to test you for the disease.
Prevention: Use flea collars and topical flea control drops on all household pets. Keep pet bedding clean and sanitize kennels regularly.
Symptoms: Lice affect the scalp, but also other body regions extreme in hair, causing extreme itchiness. The bites appear as small red bumps and the lice themselves will remain on your body until forcibly eliminated.
First Aid Treatment: Purchase over-the-counter lice medication to kill lice and their eggs. Apply the topical solution as directed and use a specialty comb to manually remove eggs from the hair. Discard any brushes and hair accessories after use, as they could re-infect you with lice later on. Clean all clothing, linens, and carpets to remove lice completely from the home.
When to See a Doctor: Contact a doctor if the lice bites are bleeding or show visible pus, as this may indicate you need more advanced treatment methods.
Prevention: Limit head-to-head contact between children and encourage them to not share combs or brushes. Use your own bedding since lice can easily travel between people.
Symptoms: Spider bites cause itching, redness and pain. They may induce red/purple blistering or open deep ulcer in victim’s skin. In some cases, spider bites can be extremely serious, causing cramping, sweating, headache and muscle pains.
First Aid Treatment: Clean the bite area immediately with mild soap and water. Towel dry and then apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to the wound. To reduce swelling from spider bites, hold an ice pack to the area. Leave ice in place for 10-minute intervals. If the spider bite is on an arm or leg, elevate it to reduce pain and swelling.
When to See a Doctor: Spider bites are an emergency if you were bitten by a poisonous species such as the black widow or brown recluse. If unsure of the type, it is best to contact your physician for advice. Any severe pain at the bite site is also considered a medical emergency.
Prevention: Check attics and basements for live spiders and spider webs frequently. Store firewood outdoors since spiders tend to enter homes on firewood. In case of suspected spider infestations, contact a pest control specialist for advice.
Symptoms: Tick bites are sometimes not noticeable until tick has been fully engaged for a long time. They can cause blisters, burning sensation, rash, and swelling; and transmit illnesses such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Tick bites are also known to occasionally cause victim to have difficulty in breathing.
First Aid Treatment: Remove the tick from the skin using tweezers and grabbing the bug by its head. Wash the bite site with a mild soap and warm water once the bug is removed. Swab the area with cotton soaked in rubbing alcohol.
When to See a Doctor: Contact a doctor if you’re unable to remove the tick completely from the skin or if the tick has been embedded into the skin for more than 24 hours. Flu-like symptoms and rashes could be signs of a disease transmitted through bites.
Prevention: Check the skin and all clothing items after being outdoors in wooded areas. Cover the skin completely while in the woods and use bug repellents generously.
Notes On Bug Bites
At any time, a bite or a sting can cause symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. If you experience difficulty in breathing, dizziness, extreme swelling or if the irritation spreads or worsens, contact your local health center.
Arachnids, Insects and Other Dangerous Bugs – Avoid Panic
Issues pertaining to dangerous arachnid and other critter bites typically spur visual images of brown recluse spiders, toxic scorpions, and raging yellow jackets. But worries over some of these animals should not be exaggerated by Charlotte regional residents.
For example: In 2013, Matt Bertone with the NC State Entomology Extension reported only two known North Carolina cases of brown recluse spider bites. Both events involved near fatal consequences. However, the attending physicians listed unfamiliarity with dangerous arachnid as a primary cause of the extended complications.
Misidentifying a brown spider as a recluse can cause unnecessary fear. However, failure to rightly identify a recluse can cause serious complications. Eliminate unlikely culprits, but if error is to occur, err on the side of safety.
Preventing and Treating Insect Stings and Bites
Getting stung by an insect can run the gamut of being an annoyance to posing a severe risk to your health. During warm weather months, all types of pests come out of hiding and wreak a little havoc to communities across Charlotte. Although there’s no foolproof method to stop bug bites, you can take steps to prevent attracting insects while outdoors.
1. Watch What You Wear
Certain articles of clothing will attract more insects to your person. Bright colors and floral patterns may make you appealing to flying insects. Wearing close-toed shoes can protect your feet from bug bites. Although the spring weather makes you want to wear less clothing, ideally cover your skin with long-sleeve shirts and pants. This is especially important while gardening. Insects also tend to flock to those who use fragrances. Avoid hair products, perfumes, aftershaves, makeup, and lotions with strong floral or fruity scents.
2. Beware of Nests
In many cases, if you don’t bother bugs, they won’t bug you. You never know when you may inadvertently mow over or trim nearby a beehive. Check all branches, under gutters, and in the corners of doorways during the springtime for evidence of nests. While eating outdoors, be careful around trash cans and nearby bodies of water. If you do eat or drink outside, keep everything covered and dispose all items as soon as you’re finished.
3. Insect Repellant
Insect repellant can be purchased at any drugstore and protects against many outdoor pests. Insect repellant is especially important if you are going into the woods and have a chance of being exposed to ticks. Read all labels to see what insects the spray protects against.
4. Don’t Freak Out
Staying calm is hard to do when a bee or wasp is flying in your direction, but this is an important rule to follow. Avoid flailing your arms or making rapid movements since this increases your likelihood of getting stung.
Bug Bite Characteristics
Bugs That Can Bite Inside
- Bed bugs
Bugs That Can Bite Outdoors
- Fire ants
Bug Bites That Can Itch
- Bed bugs
Bug Bites That Can Leave a Ring
- Bed bugs
Which Bugs Tend to Bite Inside the Home in Charlotte, NC?
There are several types of bugs that are commonly found inside homes in Charlotte, NC, and some of these bugs may bite humans. Here are a few examples:
- Bed bugs: Bed bugs can be found in bedding, mattresses, and other furniture.
- Fleas: Fleas are often brought into homes by dogs and cats.
- Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes can fly into homes through open windows or doors and can bite humans.
- Cockroaches: While cockroaches don’t typically bite humans, they can cause allergic reactions in some people.
- Spiders: Some types of spiders, such as brown recluse spiders and black widow spiders, can be found inside homes.
Which Bugs Tend to Bite Outside in Charlotte, NC?
There are many types of insects that can bite or sting humans when they are outdoors in Charlotte, NC. Here are a few examples:
- Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are probably the most common biting insect outdoors in Charlotte. They are most active during dawn and dusk. Mosquito season spans from late spring, through summer, and into early fall when the climate is warm and humid.
- Ticks: Ticks are commonly found in wooded areas, tall grasses, and other outdoor environments. Ticks can be found all year long, but most bites occur when people are active outdoors in the spring, summer, and fall.
- Chiggers: Chiggers are tiny mites that are often found in grassy areas. They live throughout the seasons but are more active during the spring and summer.
- Fire ants: Fire ant bites are more common in the spring and summer when these ants begin to work on their colonies.
- Wasps: Wasps are most active in June and July when the weather is warm.
Bug Bites That Itch
When a bug bit causes itching, it’s usually due to the bug’s saliva. When bugs bite, they inject saliva into the skin causing the body’s immune system to react by releasing histamine. Bugs that have the itchiest bites include:
- Bed bugs
Not all bug bites cause itching. While many insect bites can cause an itchy reaction, some may not produce any noticeable symptoms at all. In addition, individual responses to bug bites can vary, and some people may be more sensitive to certain types of bites than others.
Bug Bites That Leave a Red Ring
Some insect bites can cause a red ring or a red rash around the site of the bite. Here are some of the most common types of bug bites that can cause a red ring:
- Tick bites: Tick bites can cause a red ring around the bite site, which is often a sign of Lyme disease. The ring may be circular or shaped like a bull’s eye.
- Spider bites: Some spider bites, such as brown recluse spider bites or black widow spider bites, can cause a red ring or red rash around the bite site.
- Bed bug bites: Bed bug bites may cause a red, itchy rash that can sometimes develop into a ring-shaped pattern.
- Flea bites: Flea bites can cause a red, raised bump that may have a red ring around it.
- Mosquito bites: While mosquito bites typically don’t cause a ring-shaped rash, some people may develop a reaction that includes a red ring around the bite site.
A red ring around a bug bite can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as Lyme disease or a bacterial infection. If you experience a red ring or other concerning symptoms, such as fever or muscle aches, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Charlotte-Area Resource for Prevention of Bug Bites
When suffering from a pest infestation and the associated bites and stings, call us for professional pest treatment in Charlotte. We can safely remove nests or hives from your property, helping you reduce your risk of getting bitten or stung by bugs. At Carolina Pest Management, we focus on methods best suited to safer, greener, and more effective pest control. Contact us today to schedule your Carolina Pest inspection.