Insect Bites symptoms for 8 most common insect types

Have you ever found yourself outdoors only to notice a sudden itch or a swollen mark on your skin? 

Perhaps you’ve experienced waking up in a hostel bed on the other side of the world, greeted by a red rash on your back and an unwelcome army of bed bugs. I can personally attest to this experience in Thailand, and let me tell you, it’s something you’d want to avoid at all costs! Common insect bites.

Hello, everyone. I’m Dr. Ann, also known as the Travelling Doc, and I’m here to delve into the eight most common types of insect bites. I’ll provide insights into the symptoms you should be vigilant about and whether seeking medical attention is necessary. 

Why do insects bite?

Like mosquitoes, midges, and ticks, insects are like tiny vampires. They sustain themselves by feeding on our blood, providing them with the essential proteins they require for egg production. It might sound unpleasant, but it’s a natural part of these creatures’ life cycle. On the other hand, some insects, like spiders, resort to biting when they perceive a threat.

When an insect bites you, its saliva contains substances that make your skin swell, turn red and itch. The reassuring part is that most of these bites are harmless and tend to heal within a few days. However, in some cases, bites can be a bit trickier to deal with. They may trigger allergic reactions or transmit diseases like malaria or Lyme disease.

Insect bite or sting symptoms typically include:

Pain at the bite or sting site.

  1. A small, swollen bump on the skin, which may appear red.
  2. Possible itching and raised skin in the area.
  3. Increased swelling and pain if an infection develops.

Common insects that bite or sting

Mosquito bites 

Most people have experienced mosquito bites, sometimes leading to mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus, malaria, dengue fever, or Zika virus. These bites usually result in a small, itchy, red bump on the skin, though occasionally, they can form fluid-filled blisters, albeit rarely.

Tick bites

While tick bites are often painless initially, a clear indicator is finding the tick still attached to your skin. Not the most pleasant sight, right? If you do spot one, don’t panic. It looks like a tiny spider. 

The bite can sometimes evolve into a ‘bull’s-eye’ rash, which tends to be itchy, swollen, bruised, or blistered. 

In certain regions like Asia, parts of the UK, Europe, and the US, tick bites can lead to Lyme disease. If you discover a tick attached, removing it yourself with tweezers or seeking professional assistance is best.

Horsefly bites

Like other insect bites and stings, a horsefly bite can be uncomfortable. Typical symptoms include a sharp, burning sensation, itchiness, redness, swelling around the bite, and occasionally, bruising. The good news is that these discomforts usually subside within a few hours or days.

In contrast to other insects, horseflies don’t delicately pierce the skin; they bite through it with their sharp jaws. Additionally, while mosquitoes administer a mild anesthetic during their bites, numbing the area, horseflies do not, making their bites notably more painful.

What attracts Horseflies to humans?

It’s crucial to stay vigilant during vigorous outdoor activities as horseflies are fond of the carbon dioxide we naturally exhale, especially when exercising. While staying active is essential, taking protective measures in high-risk areas is equally vital.

These areas often include farms, as horseflies get drawn to horses and cattle and warm water sources like ponds, streams, and rivers. Many Horseflies lay their eggs near water and are most active during hot and humid conditions.

Walking through tall grass with exposed feet, ankles, and legs is an open invitation for horseflies. Also, it’s worth noting that wearing any perfume can attract these airborne insects.

Bedbug bites

Bed bugs may not be carriers of diseases, but they’re a nuisance. Their bites can lead to allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe. Those who dwell in infested homes have reported various problems, including anxiety, sleep disturbances, and systemic reactions.

These tiny troublemakers reside in bedding and furniture, often targeting exposed areas while you sleep peacefully. The aftermath of their bites is a collection of itchy, red bumps on your skin, typically arranged in straight lines or zigzag patterns. 

I had an unexpected encounter with bed bugs during my stay in Amsterdam. When I woke up I found a distinctive zigzag rash on my left thigh. Quite the surprise during my trip!

What puts one at risk of being bitten by bedbugs?

Frequent travelers who share living and sleeping spaces previously occupied by others face an elevated risk of encountering bed bug issues. 

Many individuals are unaware that they unintentionally transport these unwelcome bed bugs, hitchhikers, as they move from place to place, inadvertently spreading infestations along their journey.

Mite Bites

You may observe numerous highly itchy, red bumps around your neck and shoulders. These are clear indicators of mite bites, which occasionally develop into blisters.

Situations in which one can be at risk from mites:

Outdoor Activities: Participating in outdoor activities like camping and hiking in grassy or wooded areas.

  1. Contact with Soil: Walking or sitting on soil or grass can increase the risk of encountering chigger mites.
  2. Close Animal Contact: Visiting farms, petting zoos, or interacting closely with animals, can transfer mites from animals to humans.
  3. Shared Bedding: Staying in accommodations with shared bedding, like hostels or budget hotels, if the bedding needs to be adequately cleaned.
  4. Used Furniture: Using second-hand furniture in your accommodation can pose a risk if it’s infested with mites.
  5. Crowded Public Transport: Traveling in packed buses, trains, or airplanes where mites may be in seating or upholstery.
  6. Poor Hygiene: Inadequate personal hygiene, such as infrequent clothes washing or lack of cleanliness in living quarters, can attract mites.
  7. Warm and Humid Climates: Traveling to regions with warm and humid climates conducive to mite survival.
  8. Unkempt Gardens: Relaxing in gardens or parks that are not well-maintained, where mites may reside in the vegetation.
  9. Used Camping Gear: Renting or using used camping gear that needs to be cleaned appropriately, potentially introducing mites from previous users.

Flea Bites

Flea bites are commonly located below your knee or around your ankles. These bites typically manifest as small, itchy, red lumps, often appearing roughly half an hour after the bite. The initial lump may become a blister or a small wound within a day.

Situations in which one can be at risk from fleas:

Fleas tend to be most active during warm weather. Outdoors, they thrive in cool, damp spots abundant in shade. These tiny pests commonly inhabit areas with trees, leaves, tall grass, and shrubs, eagerly hitching rides on passing animals.

On animals like dogs, cats, and others, fleas typically take residence around the ears, neck, back, and abdomen. However, fleas may leap off their infested hosts once they infiltrate your home and seek hiding spots. Common refuges include carpets, furniture, bedding, and even small floor crevices.

Ant Bites

Ant bites usually result in immediate pain when bitten by an ant, which can develop into an itchy red swelling on your skin. Fortunately, most ant bites are harmless and tend to improve independently.

How one can be at risk of being bitten by Ants and ways to protect themselves:

Ants are tiny but formidable creatures, and understanding where you might encounter them can help you avoid unwanted encounters.

1. Outdoor Activities: When outdoors, especially in grassy or wooded areas, wear protective clothing like closed-toe shoes, long pants, gloves, and high socks.

2. Avoid Ant Mounds: Educate yourself about ant mounds’ appearance and familiar locations to avoid infested areas.

3. Use Insect Repellent: Apply insect repellent with DEET or picaridin before outside to create a protective shield against ant bites.

4. Pest Control: If ants invade your living space, promptly contact pest control experts to handle the infestation.

By following these steps, you can minimize the risk of ant attacks and enjoy outdoor activities more comfortably. Stay prepared to keep ants at bay.

Spider bites

Our planet is home to a staggering variety of spiders, with over 34,000 species, excluding Antarctica. While it might sound alarming, the fact is that nearly all of them possess fangs and venom.

However, the vast majority, approximately over 99.5%, cannot pierce human skin. Only a small handful of this group are potentially hazardous to humans.

It’s essential to recognize that most spiders are rather timid and not naturally inclined to aggression. In reality, spider bites are relatively rare and typically occur when these creatures feel threatened or cornered.

General tips to follow in case of insect bites or stings

In case of a sting, if anything is left on your skin, you must remove it carefully, while in case of bites, the following measures can help:

  1. Apply a cold compress: Gently place an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or use a clean cloth soaked in cold water on the affected area for a minimum of 20 minutes, especially if swelling.
  2. Elevate the area: Keep the bitten or stung area elevated if possible. This can help reduce swelling.
  3. Pain relief: If the sting is causing pain, you can take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen as recommended.
  4. Itch relief: If you’re experiencing itching, antihistamines can provide effective relief. But remember, if you’ve had contact with caterpillar hairs, it’s best to avoid applying antihistamine cream to the affected skin.
  5. Hydrocortisone cream: To further reduce itching and swelling, use a hydrocortisone cream as directed.

These measures can help manage the discomfort and symptoms of bites and stings.


Wait for 24 hours to assess the effectiveness of treatments, but consult a doctor promptly if:

  • Symptoms worsen after a few days.
  • Swelling and redness spread over a large area.
  • The bite or sting becomes increasingly painful, red, or swollen.
  • Pus is present around the bite.
  • A ‘bull’s eye’ rash forms around the bite or sting.
  • You experience swollen glands, a high fever, or feel generally unwell.

Insect bites are common and usually not a cause for concern. To reduce your risk of being bitten, cover up when outdoors and use insect repellent on exposed skin in high-risk areas.

High-risk areas, such as tropical regions in Asia, may tell you about mosquito bites that can transmit diseases like malaria or dengue fever. 

You, being aware of these risks when traveling, follow recommended precautions. It is crucial. For more information on insect bite treatments and when to seek help, watch my video guide- and visit my


Disclaimer: The Video Content on this channel is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always get advice from your doctor if you are worried or have symptoms.

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