How to Treat a Swelling Insect Bite

Many of us hate bugs, especially the biting ones. It’s one thing to be pesky and disgusting and a general nuisance, but biting is just one step too far. If you’re one of those who feels like bugs have a personal vendetta against you, it might be hard for you to believe that there are some other people who don’t get bitten as frequently as you do. Yeah, it’s not fair, but ours is not to question the gods of the bugs, ours is just to hear and obey.

Anyway, more to the point now If you’re reading this, you probably have a swelling insect bite for which you’re seeking treatment and our article today affords you enough information about that. We will be discussing everything about insect bites; from causes to symptoms and down to treatment, of course.

If, however, you’re in too much of a discomfort to patiently read through this from the beginning, you can also skip this part and jump right to the part where we actually discuss the treatment for swelling insect bites.

For those who want all the juicy details, let’s get straight to it.

Causes of Insect Bites

First of all, insects and bugs do not just bite you on a whim or because they hate you, although you may not believe it. They actually bite you because you attacked first, knowingly or unknowingly. Or they’re hungry (think mosquitoes, ticks, bed bugs, etc.).

Most bites or stings from insects are more defensive than attacking. You probably provoked them when you disturbed them from their restful repose, or when you mistakenly hit their nest.

So, they bit or stung you to protect themselves and their nests or hives. That’s only fair, don’t you think? You might not have meant to disturb them but there’s no way they could have known that. They’re not human, remember?

But defense isn’t the only reason all insects bite. There are insects that bite in a bid to draw a meal from you; a blood meal actually. Yeah, like vampires. An example of such insects is the mosquito.

Generally though, except the mosquito carries a pathogen, mosquito bites do not usually pose serious threats to their victims. And aside mosquitoes, there are other insects that bite to get a blood meal, and they include lice, Tse Tse fly, deer fly, and some arachnids like ticks.

If it’s any comfort, some insects actually die after stinging or biting, e.g. the honeybee.

Symptoms of Insect Bites

On a good day, bug bites are mostly little beyond an unnecessary nuisance. But let’s quickly look up the different symptoms insect bites may present:

  • Redness
  • Localized swelling or minor pain
  • Itching
  • Blistering

Mild symptoms like these usually disappear within few days, and you would usually find them after getting bitten by insects such as mosquitoes, lice, chiggers, many ticks, bedbugs, some ants, some biting flies, fleas, and some non-poisonous spiders.

Now, there are cases where you would be grateful for a swelling after an insect bite and such cases include a situation when the skin gets broken and consequently gets infected. If this local infection gets severe, then it can lead to a condition called cellulitis. Another severe condition for which you’d be grateful for a swelling is when you are allergic to the bite and then face a severe reaction. This situation is referred to as anaphylaxis. You do not want to experience that.

Swollen insect bite on neck


Severe reactions may also present other symptoms such as:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death (as quickly as within 30 minutes). Scary but true.

Severe reactions such as these are usually from bites or stings from the following insects: scorpions, fire ants, yellow jackets, bees, some spiders, hornets, etc.

Why do Insect Bites Swell?

You’ve probably wondered why insect bites actually swell. Well, here’s a summarized story of the whole matter. Insects release saliva into your skin when they bite you. Your body mounts a defense against this saliva, which causes fluid to build up under the skin in the affected part of your body. This fluid results in swelling, itch, and redness.

Same goes for insects that sting, the release of venom into the skin also causes the affected area to swell, get itchy and form a weal (a red mark). Although the swollen area might be painful, insect bites are generally harmless, except when they are not. Most times, it won’t take more than a few awkward days of mild pain and itching for the swelling to disappear.

Treatment of Swelling Insect Bites

First, remove any stingers (the honeybee leaves its stinger behind) and wash the bite or sting site. You want to put an ice pack on the bitten or stung area. However, ensure that you only leave the ice sitting on your skin for between fifteen and twenty minutes per time. If you’re not applying the ice pack, replace the ice pack with a cool, wet rag. When using the ice pack, ensure that you put a cloth on the area before placing the ice pack. Also, make sure that the ice does not sit on your skin for over twenty minutes at a stretch; or fall asleep while the ice stays on your skin. This is to ensure that blood continues to circulate in the affected area.

Don’t scratch.

To reduce the swelling, raise the area that was bitten to a height above your heart.

Use a nonprescription drug to help you relieve redness, itching, and, of course, swelling. Ensure that you follow the precautions of using a nonprescription drug when using it.

  • The oral antihistamine like Chlor-Trimeton or Benadryl helps to relieve all three symptoms mentioned above. However, be careful when administering it to your child. In fact, if you haven’t checked with your doctor, do not administer antihistamine to your child.
  • Using a local anesthetic spray containing benzocaine like Solarcaine also helps to relieve pain. However, if you notice any reaction to the spray, please discontinue the use of the spray.
  • Some topical applications can also work. An example is calamine lotion when applied to the skin help to relieve redness and itching. 

Finally, the best way is to avoid being bitten in the first place.

If you’re going to a place where you know there will be lots of biting bugs, take precautions like wearing clothes that cover you properly, avoiding wearing strong scents, and probably going with an insect repellent.

But then again, there are always times when it just happens. This is life after all. Well, now you know what to do.


Presley Hudson

This bug bite relief was soooooo helpful

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