A mosquito biting someone

Signs Your Bug Bite or Sting Needs Medical Attention

As the months go on and the temperature increases, so does our chance of suffering a nasty bug bite or sting. There are steps you can take to decrease your chances of being bitten (avoiding perfume, not wearing bright clothes, and applying repellant), but in some cases, it simply can’t be avoided.

Ants, wasps, bees, and mosquitoes are the primary offenders. Ants and fire ants tend to attack in swarms, leaving victims (especially those with allergies) needing medical attention. Wasps and bees have painful stings, but the attacks won’t often require you to see a doctor unless circumstances are severe. Mosquitoes present the risk of disease, but their bites alone won’t necessitate a trip to the doctor’s. There are instances, however, where such a minor run-in with any of these insects might leave you needing to visit a physician.

Allergic Reactions

The primary danger in being bitten or stung is suffering an allergic reaction, which can sometimes be life threatening. Nearly 2 million Americans are allergic to the venom of stinging insects and nearly 50 Americans die each year from these allergies. There are telltale symptoms of an allergic reaction, however. If bitten or stung, an allergic person will experience:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Swelling (of face, throat, or mouth tissue)
  • Hives
  • Rapid drop in blood pressure

If the reaction is severe enough, the affected person could lose consciousness within 10 minutes. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms following a bug bite, contact a medical professional or call 911. These problems may very well intensify if left untreated.

Ants/Fire Ants

It’s unlikely that you’ll be bitten by just one ant, which is what makes them such a nuisance. By the time you realize you'rebeing stung, the damage may already have been done. If fire ants are behind the attack, it’s much more likely that you will need to see a doctor, especially if you're allergic. Following a fire ant attack, those bitten will swell up in the affected area, and the wounds might begin to produce pus and start to resemble large whiteheads. Antihistamines, pain relievers, and cold packs can help with the discomfort, but suffering a large number of stings--enough to trigger a severe allergic reaction--is grounds to seek emergency care.


Unfortunately, when it comes to mosquitoes, allergic reactions aren’t the only possible complication, as they are known to transmit several serious diseases, such as:

  • Malaria
  • Dengue fever
  • Yellow fever
  • West Nile Virus (in North America)
  • Encephalitis (infection of the brain)
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord)


If you do contract such a disease from a mosquito bite, you’ll soon begin to experience the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Severe headaches
  • Body aches
  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Muscle weakness on one side of the body

In Case of Complication

If you or someone you know was bitten and the area has yet to heal after several weeks, medical attention may again be needed—this is a sign that the bite or sting has become infected and will most likely not heal on its own.

If you think that you or a loved one might be allergic to a bug bite, may have contracted a disease from a bug bite, or is displaying symptoms of an allergic reaction, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

Last Updated: July 21, 2015