How To Tell If A Tick Bite Is Infected?

How To Tell If A Tick Bite Is Infected?


Tick bites carry several disease-causing pathogens, the common ones being Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Fever and Ricekttsia and so on. Whether or not you will get ill with one of these pathogens is impossible to say for sure. Many factors play an important role in deciding whether you or your pet may start showing tick bite Lyme disease symptoms. These factors will also decide how sick you become or how quickly the infection may manifest itself. In this guide, I will cover important topics like:

  • Tick bite pictures
  • Local infection rates-tick bite Lyme disease-how likely are you likely to be a victim?
  • Do tick bites itch?
  • Best possible tick bite treatment
  • What is tick bite bulls-eye rash?
  • Common tick bite symptoms
  • What to do for tick bite rash?

Tick bite pictures

Here are some pictures of tick bite in humans. Some people develop a reddish rash which resembles a bull’s eye or target like pattern.

Local infection rates

The chance of getting infected by tick bites increase if there is a significant risk of infection in your community. However, one can never know the statistics pertaining to Lyme disease. Many times, Lyme disease is misdiagnosed as it produces symptoms very similar to other health issues. Some local health departments across the United States are much more stringent in gathering data pertaining to tick bite infections. They are also fastidious about bagging and studying the tick specimens that are causing these infections. The best way to know if a tick bite is likely to be infected is talk to neighbors about anecdotal reports of tick bite infections and also media coverage about it. If needed, call the local health department and ask them careful questions if they try to assure you there is no infection.

Number of tick bites

The number of times an infected tick bites you as well as the average feeding will determine the risk of infection as well. So, the more you are bitten, the greater are your chances of infection. Also, even a single bite can cause problems, so you can never say for sure that “Oh, I have been bitten only once by a single tick, so I am safe”. This is not the case. While not all deer tick or Lone star or blacklegged ticks can carry the infection, the rate of Lyme disease is on the rise in both Canada and the United States. People with weaker immune systems are also a lot more likely to develop tick bite infectious diseases.

What to do if you are bitten?

It is very important to remove the tick completely from the body. You should grasp it with the help of tweezers and pull it out vertically upwards to prevent leaving behind any of its parts. Immediately wash the bitten area of the skin with antibacterial soap. If the mouthparts do remain in the skin, let them be. Allow the skin to heal over the next few days. Ideally you should bag the tick and note the date on which you were bitten. In the weeks following the bite, watch out for symptoms of Lyme disease. If you develop a fever, bullseye rash, arthritis, or other signs; seek immediate medical help. Take the bagged sample of the tick along to your appointment as it can help your doctor in their assessment of the disease.

Common tick bite symptoms

You must remove the tick within 24 hours after it has bitten you or your pet. This can significantly reduce the chances of infection. Sometimes, a tick bite might not show any symptoms; in other cases you might develop a skin rash. The rash may be reddish in color with significant swelling. You can apply some antibiotic cream to the rash to counter the itchiness. Bathing in water mixed with some oatmeal can also reduce the itchiness and swelling. Watch for signs and symptoms of Lyme disease (which generally appear in 72 hours after the tick has bitten you):

  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Muscular pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion or memory-issues
  • Joint pain and other arthritic symptoms

Diagnosing Lyme disease in its early stages can significantly reduce the chances of long term health problems. Seek medical help if you have above symptoms. Your doctor might ask you questions pertaining to your recent activities which may have brought you in contact with ticks. Based on the symptoms and other details, your doctor might prescribe you antibiotics. Take them as directed and do not miss a dose just because you feel better. Doing so could cause the infection to return, or even worsen. You need to take the antibiotics for 2-4 weeks or longer depending on your symptoms.


What was your experience with ticks? Submit Your Comment

I had Lyme disease from a tick bite in 1993. I had the bullseye rash. Treatment started on the 13th day and I thought I was rid of this, but after 27 years the area off my bullseye rash is itching like mad and nothing I put on it is stopping the itch. Wonder if anyone else has had this experience.

We usually don’t have tick problems where I live because the flock of guinea hens in the neighborhood eats them all. I went to my sister’s house to help clear some land and picked up two, one on my ankle and the other made it to my inner thigh. Both were very small and were easily removed but days later the one on my inner thigh started itching severely. I tried checking to see if any mouth parts were still in the skin but it was so small that I’m not sure I would be able to see it.

My husband had a battery of tests, one of them EKG. The next morning he got up and showed me a big red swelling on his chest where the lead had been put on the day before. I realized there was a tick in the middle and could not get it out as it was deeply embedded. They had used a razor to remove the hair in that spot and the tick found it and he had plenty of time to dig in. The doctor at a walk-in clinic removed the tick and gave him an antibiotic. Since this happened in January we were not expecting to see ticks.

Our Christmas tree had been up for 6 days and looked beautiful. On the 7th day the floor at the back of the tree was full of dark brown bugs. They appeared dormant for a time, then they started crawling up the drapes, they were ticks all in the presents, all over the gifts. I don’t know what stage they were in, they must have been on the tree. Christmas horror!

Last Sunday when I woke my four year old daughter up to get dressed for church she couldn’t walk. It was as if she was paralyzed from the waist down. So we rushed her to the hospital not having any idea what could wrong and I was scared to death thinking something was terribly wrong but when doc came in she said they would need to check her for ticks and sure enough she had one right in the top of her head that had caused tick bite paralysis after the doctor removed it, it took her about three hours and she was back running all over the place and to think a little tick could do that.

About three months ago I took a tick off my belly. It was itchy for serval days, now it’s been about three months and it is itching again and swelled. I wonder if there is something going on now!

Yesterday, my 13 year old found a deer tick on her eyelid, right in the inner corner of her eye, about 2 mm from being in her eye. I believe a nymph; that thing was so tiny I had to use reading glasses and a magnifier to identify it as a tick. We are hoping she got it yesterday. It really just looked like a dark freckle. We have a lot of wildlife in our yard, deer, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, bunnies, etc. I’m told that chipmunks and squirrels can carry deer ticks as well. She always sprays herself if going near the woods or creek. Yesterday she just went in our pool, but the deer eat the lilies around the pool and the chipmunks live in the rock walls there. Half afraid to walk to my garden!

I got a tick bite and within hours, the neck (the tick bit me where the jugular vein is) swelled up, was red and purple with a black mark inside the center of the bite. I had removed the tick, alive and put it in a cap with water. It was alive and swimming. I washed the area and put on a triple antibiotic cream. The next day, the pain and swelling was worse. I went to the nearest emergency room with the tick which was still alive. The nurse practitioner threw the tick down the sink and told me that the black spot could be a freckle. She gave me two doxycyline pills told me to go home. I did this and felt nauseated. Two days later, the tick bite was better but I still had some pain.

I went to the doctor and told her there is something on my back and that my wife is concerned about it. The doctor looks at it briefly and said its nothing to worry about and sent me on my way. Ten days later that thing got bigger and painful, so today I asked someone at work to look at it and to our amazement, it was a tick.


I have been diagnosed with Lyme disease three times and once with STARI, all in the last five years. Twice it was behind my knee and I didn’t know until the itch that I had for days wouldn’t stop with all kinds of creams. The tick was so tiny my husband, who tried to remove it, had to take a magnifying glass. They were deer ticks and once the Lone Star Tick. Once it was on my waist and once on the inside of my thigh. I seem to be more prone to having them than my husband, but I do work a lot in my garden in Alabama. The first time I started feeling fatigued and nauseated and generally not well, the doctor prescribed doxycycline and it seems to have worked every time. I just found a Lone Star Tick today on my back, but I think I just got it this afternoon, so I’m not too worried, but will keep watching the spot for any signs of a rash.

I became ill after two ticks attached to my scalp. After four days I detected the parasites and dug them out from under my scalp. My symptoms included dizziness, severe weakness, headache, fainting, loss of blood, vomiting, hemoglobins drop to eight point zero. It was a very difficult time.

I’ve had ticks on me with no bumps or rashes. Last year in Alabama I got a tick on my chest. A friend removed it but I had a scab for a very long time — nearly six or more months. Then last week I got a tick on the back of my leg. I didn’t know it was there for two days. I found it while I was in the shower. My husband got it off for me. Mow nearly a week later I have the bull’s eye rash. I think I may have Lyme disease.

Today I found a tick embedded in the crease behind my knee. I had someone pull it out with tweezers and two doses of doxycycline were just prescribed for me. It’s very red and sore in the area of the bite. Just sitting here I can feel it. I golfed yesterday in a wooded area.

I live in an area where ticks abound and I spend a lot of time in the woods and on a lake with my dog. Consequently, I have had many ticks over time — but this year I have had two real «bites» that have worried me. Both times I have had hard, knotty sores and this is so different than anything else I’ve experienced. No rashes or other symptoms (yet — the most recent bite was two days ago) — but I will be happy when the ticks decide to go into hiding during summer heat!

I’m in the business of cleaning out foreclosed homes. I have been bitten by ticks at least 12 times in the last month. All were either deer or black leg ticks. Most were on leg, arm side or back.

I live in Northern California and we are having a terrible tick season. I walk my dogs on the trails every day and every day we have at least three ticks between us. They mostly attach to the dogs face and groin. I’ve had them on my back, arms, neck and hair. Tick checks are a daily occurrence now.

I have found nine ticks in the last three days.

I have been bitten twice by ticks in the past three months! The first was three months ago on my back! I still have itching and a scab in that area! I found one on my leg a few days ago! I removed it and put antibiotic ointment on it! Now there is a large knot like place under where the bite was! I am not sure what to do about it! I live on a lake and unfortunately I am subject to ticks more so than those living in urban areas!

My daughter was brushing my granddaughter’s hair until she notices something in her head moving, and she was trying to take it off, but she couldn’t get it off from her. It was inside her scalp! I called her doctor and she removed it in about 15 minutes.

The spot from a tick bite itches: is it an infection or a common irritation?

I had a deer tick on the back of my neck over a month ago. It was there less than 24 hrs. ( I know this because I am especially sensitive to tick bites, meaning they itch for a long time and a. View answer

Suggest treatment for tick bites on hand and chest

they did n ot itch bad They finally went away and I got 14 of these thing out of my ear My ear size got to normal in 2 months About 2 months ago I picked up a chicken and saw the same things in their. View answer

Suggest treatment for severe headache, fever and tick bite on the upper back

constipation and swollen lymph nodes near the site of the tick bite . I started taking a Zpack 3 days ago which . and macules or red unraised red spots which do not itch on trunk and extremities. View answer

Suggest treatment for a tick bite

daily, including after the hike. Still don’t know what kind of bug is to blame. Should I be concerned . View answer

How can a tick bite be treated?

I had a tick bite 4 days ago. No infection is evident but today a slight itching and slight redning started to show mostly outside of the bandaid that was over the area of the bite, Is there a. View answer

Public Forum Discussions

Suggest remedies for a tick bite

I was bitten by a tick about three months ago. There still is a bump looks like a pimple still at the bite site. I never had a bullseye or rash. I had treated with polymiacin etc.. but has never went. View answer

Suggest remedy for itchy legs caused due to tick bite

Had a tick bite on the back of my leg behind the knee. My husband removed it, the whole tick. I . it still itches. How can I get it to quit itching? The swelling is going down. . View answer

Suggest treatment for tick bite with hardened pimple

When I get a tick bite, it itches forever — months. Any suggestions regarding treatment. The bite area never gets very large and doesn t look like the things described by Lyme disease. There is. View answer

Suggest remedies for tick bite on the toes

A few months ago, I had a tick bite me between my toes. I took it out as soon as I saw it. Ever . part of the tick is still embedded? . View answer

What causes recurring swelling of a tick bite site?

, this was about 6 months ago. it goes through phases of swelling up and itching. is this normal? I know ive heard that itching is normal but why is it swelling up so bad? it looks almost like a big. View answer

Mobile Questions and Answers

Why would my tick bite still be super itchy after 4 months? It looks and feels like a mosquito bite but only hasnt.

mentally you might be feeling, as after 4 months everything should resolve. avoid scratching /itching it will go

two tick bites in a month and a stiff neck for the last 10 days and no other symptoms. Any concern of Lyme disease

Hello. Thanks for the query. Fever is the primary symptom in Lyme diseae.Regards

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Insect bites or stings


How serious are insect bites?

Insect bites and stings are common and usually cause only minor irritation. However, some stings can be painful and trigger a serious allergic reaction.

An insect bites you by making a hole in your skin to feed. Most insects sting as a defence by injecting venom into your skin.

How can I tell if I have an insect bite or sting?

When an insect bites, it releases saliva that can cause skin around the bite to become red, swollen and itchy. The venom from a sting often also causes a swollen, itchy, red mark (a weal) to form on the skin. This can be painful, but is harmless in most cases. The affected area will usually remain painful and itchy for a few days.

The severity of bites and stings varies depending on the type of insect and sensitivity of the person.

In rare cases, some people can have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a bite or sting that requires immediate medical treatment.

Should I see a doctor?

See your doctor if you have a lot of swelling and blistering, or if there is pus, which indicates an infection.

Call for an ambulance or medical professional immediately if you have the following symptoms:

  • wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • a fast heart rate
  • dizziness or feeling faint
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • confusion, anxiety or agitation

Treating insect bites and stings

Most bites and stings are treated by:

  • washing the affected area with soap and water
  • placing a cold compress (a flannel or cloth soaked in cold water) over the area to reduce swelling

Try not to scratch the affected area to avoid infection and if you are in pain or the area is swollen, take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

If you have a more serious reaction, your doctor may prescribe other medication or refer you to an allergy clinic for immunotherapy.

Preventing insect bites and stings

You are more likely to be bitten or stung if you work outdoors or regularly take part in outdoor activities, such as camping or hiking.

Wearing insect repellent and keeping your skin covered will help avoid a bite or a sting.

Try not to panic if you encounter wasps, hornets or bees and back away slowly (do not wave your arms around or swat at them).

Travelling abroad

There is a risk of catching diseases from insect bites, such as malaria, in other parts of the world such as:

It is important to be aware of any risks before travelling and get any necessary medication or vaccination.

What are the signs of an insect bite or sting?

An insect bite or sting often causes a small lump to develop, which is usually very itchy.

A small hole, or the sting itself, may also be visible. The lump may have an inflamed (red and swollen) area around it that may be filled with fluid. This is called a weal.

Insect bites and stings usually clear up within several hours and can be safely treated at home.

Types of insect bite

The symptoms that can occur from different types of insect bites are listed below.

Midges, mosquitoes and gnats

Bites from midges, mosquitoes and gnats often cause small papules (lumps) to form on your skin that are usually very itchy. If you are particularly sensitive to insect bites, you may develop:

  • bullae (fluid-filled blisters)
  • weals (circular, fluid-filled areas surrounding the bite)

Mosquito bites in certain areas of tropical countries can cause malaria.


Flea bites can be grouped in lines or clusters. If you are particularly sensitive to flea bites, they can lead to a condition called papular urticaria (where a number of itchy red lumps form). Bullae may also develop.

Fleas from cats and dogs can often bite below the knee, commonly around the ankles. They may also affect the forearms if you have been stroking or holding your pet.


A bite from a horsefly can be very painful. As well as the formation of a weal around the bite, you may experience:

  • urticaria – a rash of weals (also called hives, welts or nettle rash)
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • wheezing
  • angioedema – itchy, pale pink or red swellings that often occur around the eyes and lips for short periods of time

Horseflies cut the skin when they bite, rather than piercing it, so horsefly bites can take a long time to heal and can cause an infection.


Bites from bedbugs are not usually painful, and if you have not been bitten by bedbugs before, you may not have any symptoms. If you have been bitten before, you may develop intensely irritating weals or lumps.

Bedbug bites often occur on your:

Read more information about bedbugs.

The Blandford fly

The Blandford fly (sometimes called blackfly) is found in parts of the United Kingdom, including:

  • East Anglia
  • Oxfordshire
  • Dorset
  • Herefordshire

Blandford fly bites are common during May and June. They often occur on the legs and are very painful. They can produce a severe, localised reaction (a reaction that is confined to the area of the bite), with symptoms such as:

  • swelling
  • blistering
  • a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or over
  • joint pain

Types of arachnid bites


Tick bites are not usually painful and sometimes only cause a red lump to develop where you were bitten. However, in some cases they may cause:

Ticks can carry a bacterial infection called Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. If Lyme disease is not treated, it can be serious.


Mites cause very itchy lumps to appear on the skin and can also cause blisters. If the mites are from pets, you may be bitten on your abdomen (tummy) and thighs where the pet has been sitting on your lap. Otherwise, mites will bite any uncovered skin.


Spider bites are rare in the UK, and tend to be more likely abroad, through keeping an exotic pet, or handling goods from overseas.

Spider bites leaves small puncture marks on the skin and can cause:

In severe cases a spider bite may cause nausea, vomiting, sweating and dizziness. Very rarely, a spider bite may cause a severe allergic reaction.

Types of insect stings

Wasps and hornets

A wasp or hornet sting causes a sharp pain in the area you are stung and usually lasts just a few seconds.

A swollen, red mark will often then form on the skin, which can be itchy and painful.

At first, a bee sting feels similar to a wasp sting.

However, if you are stung by a bee, it will leave its sting and a venomous sac in the wound. You should remove this immediately by scraping it out using something with a hard edge, such as a bank card.

Do not pinch the sting out with your fingers or tweezers because you may spread the venom.

Allergic reaction

Most people will not have severe symptoms after an insect bite or sting but some people can react badly to them. You are more likely to have an allergic reaction if you are stung by an insect.

The reaction can be classed as:

  • a minor localised reaction – this is normal and does not require allergy testing, although the affected area will often be painful for a few days
  • a large localised reaction (LLR) – this can cause other symptoms such as swelling, itching and a rash
  • a systemic reaction (SR) – this often requires immediate medical attention as it can cause a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)

Although insect bites and stings are a common cause of anaphylaxis, it is rare to experience anaphylaxis after an insect sting, and it is rarely fatal.

Large localised reactions and systemic reactions are described in more detail below.

Large localised reaction (LLR)

If you have an LLR after being bitten or stung by an insect, a large area around the bite or sting will swell up. The area may measure up to 30cm (12in) across, or your entire arm or leg could swell up.

The swelling will usually last longer than 48 hours but should start to go down after a few days. This can be painful but the swelling will not be dangerous unless it affects your airways.

If you are bitten or stung many times by one or more insects, your symptoms will be more severe because a larger amount of venom will have been injected.

You may have an LLR several hours after being bitten or stung. This could include:

  • a rash
  • nausea
  • painful or swollen joints

Systemic reaction (SR)

It is more likely that someone will have an SR if they have been bitten or stung before (sensitised), especially if it was recently. People who have been sensitised to bee stings are more likely to have an SR than people who are stung by wasps.

If you have any of the following symptoms after being bitten or stung call emergency services immediately and ask for an ambulance:

  • wheezing, hoarseness or difficulty breathing
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • a fast heart rate
  • dizziness or feeling faint
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • a swollen face or mouth
  • confusion, anxiety or agitation

It is rare for an SR to be fatal, especially in children, although someone with an existing heart or breathing problem is at increased risk.

Treating an insect bite or sting

Most insect bites and stings cause small reactions that are confined to the area of the bite (localised reactions). They can usually be treated at home.

However, if your symptoms are severe, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Removing a sting

As soon as you have been stung by a bee, remove the sting and the venomous sac if it has been left in the skin. Do this by scraping it out, either with your fingernails or using something with a hard edge, such as a bank card.

When removing the sting, be careful not to spread the venom further under your skin and do not puncture the venomous sac.

Do not pinch the sting out with your fingers or a pair of tweezers because you may spread the venom. If a child has been stung, an adult should remove the sting.

Wasps and hornets do not usually leave the sting behind, so could sting you again. If you have been stung and the wasp or hornet is still in the area, walk away calmly to avoid being stung again.

Basic treatment

Most insect bites and stings cause itching and swelling that usually clears up within several hours.

Minor bites and stings can be treated by:

  • washing the affected area with soap and water
  • placing a cold compress (a flannel or cloth cooled with cold water) over the affected area to reduce swelling
  • not scratching the area because it can become infected (keep children’s fingernails short and clean)

See your doctor if the redness and itching gets worse or does not clear up after a few days.

Additional treatment

If the bite or sting is painful or swollen, you can also:

  • wrap an ice pack (such as a bag of frozen peas) in a towel and place it on the swelling
  • take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 years old should not be given aspirin)
  • use a spray or cream that contains local anaesthetic, antihistamine or mild hydrocortisone (1%) on the affected area to prevent itching and swelling
  • take an antihistamine tablet to help reduce swelling (antihistamine tablets are available on prescription or from pharmacies)

If local swelling is severe, your doctor may prescribe a short course of oral corticosteroids, such as prednisolone, to take for three to five days.

If you have an allergic reaction after a bite or sting, even if it is just a skin rash (hives), you may be prescribed an adrenaline pen (called an auto-injector) by your doctor and shown how to use it. You will also be referred to an allergy clinic to see an immunologist for further tests and treatment.


If you develop blisters after being bitten by an insect, do not burst them because they may become infected. Blisters do not often cause pain unless they rupture (burst), exposing the new skin underneath. If possible, use an adhesive bandage (plaster) to protect the blistered area.

Infected bites

See your doctor if the bite or sting fills with pus and feels tender to touch, your glands swell up and you feel unwell with flu-like symptoms.

Your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics (medicines to treat infections caused by bacteria). You will need to take these as instructed, usually two or four times a day for seven days.

Allergic reaction

If you have swelling or itching anywhere else on your body after being bitten or stung, or if you are wheezing or have difficulty swallowing, you will need emergency medical treatment. Call an emergency medical professional immediately.

If you have the symptoms of a systemic reaction (SR), it could lead to anaphylactic shock. If you experience anaphylaxis, you may need to have an adrenaline injection, antihistamines, oxygen or an intravenous drip (a drip directly into a vein).

Allergy clinics

If previous insect bites or stings have caused a large skin reaction, such as redness and swelling of over 10cm (4 inches) in diameter, your doctor may refer you to an allergy clinic. The criteria for referring someone to an allergy clinic may vary depending on what is available in your local area.

Immunotherapy (desensitisation or hyposensitisation) is a possible treatment option if you are allergic to insect bites or stings, although it is more commonly used for wasp or bee stings. It involves being injected with small doses of venom every week and being observed to check for an allergic reaction.

Your body soon becomes used to the venom (desensitised) and will start to make antibodies to prevent further reactions.

When a high enough dose has been reached, the injections will be given monthly and could last for a further two or three years.

Your immunologist will decide how much venom is injected and how long the injections need to continue for. This will depend on your initial allergic reaction and your response to the treatment.

Read about treating allergies for more information about immunotherapy.


If you have been bitten by a tick (a small arachnid), remove it as soon as possible to reduce the risk of getting a tick-borne infection, such as Lyme disease (a bacterial infection that causes a rash).

To remove the tick:

  • Use tweezers, wear gloves or cover your fingers with tissue to avoid touching the tick.
  • Grab the tick as close to the skin as you can, and gently pull straight up until all parts are removed.
  • Do not twist or jerk the tick as you are removing it because this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in your skin once the tick has been removed.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Using petroleum jelly, alcohol or a lit match to remove a tick does not work.

After the tick has been removed, clean the tick bite with soap and water or an antiseptic, such as an iodine scrub.

Do not scratch the bite because this will cause further swelling and increase the chance of infection. Most tick bites will heal within three weeks. See your doctor if you develop:

  • a rash
  • a temperature of 38C (100.4F) or over (fever)

You may need antibiotics to prevent Lyme disease.

Can insect bites and stings be prevented?

There are a number of precautions that you can take to avoid being bitten or stung by insects. It is particularly important to follow this advice if you have had a bad reaction to an insect bite or sting in the past.

Some of the precautions that you can take to minimise your risk of being bitten or stung by an insect are listed below.

  • Move away slowly without panicking if you encounter wasps, hornets or bees. Do not wave your arms around or swat at them.
  • Cover exposed skin. If you are outside at a time of day when insects are particularly active, such as sunrise or sunset, cover your skin by wearing long sleeves and trousers.
  • Wear shoes when outdoors.
  • Apply insect repellent, particularly in summer or early autumn when stings are most likely to occur. This should be applied to exposed areas of skin. Repellents that contain diethyltoluamide (DEET) are considered most effective.
  • Avoid using products with strong perfumes such as soaps, shampoos and deodorants, because they can attract insects.
  • Avoid flowering plants, outdoor areas where food is served, rubbish and compost areas. Regularly and carefully remove any fallen fruit in your garden, and keep a well-fitting lid on any dustbins.
  • Never disturb insect nests. If a nest is in or near your house, arrange to have it removed. Wasps build nests in sheltered areas including trees and roof spaces.
  • Avoid camping near water, such as ponds and swamps, because mosquitoes and horseflies are commonly found near water.
  • Keep food and drink covered when eating or drinking outside, particularly sweet things. Wasps or bees can also get into open drink bottles or cans you are drinking from.
  • Keep doors and windows closed or put thin netting or door beads over them to prevent insects getting inside the house. Also keep the windows of your car closed to stop insects getting inside.

Avoiding ticks

Ticks are small arachnids mainly found in woodland areas. They attach to your skin, suck your blood and can be responsible for Lyme disease.

The best ways to avoid ticks include:

  • being aware of ticks and the areas where they usually live
  • wearing appropriate clothing in tick-infested areas (a long-sleeve shirt and trousers tucked into your socks)
  • wearing light-coloured fabrics that may help you spot a tick on your clothes
  • using insect repellents
  • inspecting your skin for ticks, particularly at the end of the day, including your head, neck and skin folds (armpits, groin, and waistband)
  • checking your children’s head and neck areas, including their scalp
  • making sure ticks are not brought home on your clothes
  • checking pets do not bring ticks indoors in their fur

It is also important to remove any ticks you find as soon as possible. Read more about treating insect bites and stings for information on the safest way to remove a tick.


If you are bitten by fleas, mites or bedbugs, you may have an infestation in your home. Try to find the source of the infestation and then take steps to eliminate it.

Signs of an infestation

The following are signs of an infestation:

  • fleas or flea faeces (stools) in your animal’s fur or bedding are a sign of fleas
  • crusting on your dog’s fur is a sign of fleas
  • excessive scratching and grooming are a sign of fleas in your cat
  • dandruff (flakes of skin) on your cat or dog is a sign of mites
  • spots of blood on your bed sheets are a sign of bedbugs
  • an unpleasant almond smell is a sign of bedbugs

If you are unsure whether your pet has fleas, speak to your veterinary surgeon.

Eliminating an infestation

Once you have identified the cause of the infestation, you will need to eliminate it.

For flea infestations:

  • treat the animal, its bedding, household carpets and soft furnishings with an insecticide
  • thoroughly vacuum your carpets and soft furnishings

For mite infestations, seek advice from your vet as aggressive treatment is required.

For bedbug infestations, your home will need to be thoroughly treated with an insecticide by a reputable pest control company.

Read more about bedbugs including how to spot them and getting rid of them.

Travelling abroad

Seek medical advice before travelling to a tropical area where there is a risk of catching malaria. You may need to take antimalarial tablets to avoid becoming infected.

Read more information about preventing malaria.

When you reach your destination, make sure your accommodation has insect-proof screen doors and windows that close properly. Sleeping under a mosquito net and spraying rooms with insecticide will also help stop you being bitten.

Complications of insect bites and stings

A number of complications can develop after you are bitten or stung by an insect.


Secondary bacterial infections are a common complication of insect bites and stings. They include:

  • impetigo – a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes sores or blisters
  • cellulitis – an infection that makes your skin red, swollen and painful
  • folliculitis – inflammation (redness and swelling) of one or more hair follicles (the small hole in your skin that an individual hair grows out of)
  • lymphangitis – an infection that causes red streaks in your armpit or groin and swollen lymph nodes (small glands that are part of the immune system)

An infection may occur if you scratch an insect bite or sting, or it may be introduced at the time you are bitten.

Infections are usually treated with antibiotics.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is an infection caused by a species of tick known as Ixodes ricinus. Ticks are not strictly insects, but small arachnids.

The initial infection is characterised by a red rash that gradually expands outwards from the site of the bite. Antibiotics are usually used to treat the infection.

If untreated, the long-term effects of Lyme disease include problems with the nervous system such as:

  • meningitis
  • facial palsy – weakness of the facial muscles that causes drooping of one or both sides of the face
  • encephalitis

The condition can also damage the joints, which can lead to arthritis and heart problems (occasionally), such as inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) and inflammation of the thin, two-layered, sac-like tissue that surrounds the heart (pericarditis).

West Nile virus

West Nile virus is an infection with flu-like symptoms spread by mosquitoes.


Malaria is a tropical disease caused by an infection of the red blood cells. It can be transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Find this article useful?

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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