INSECT BITES - Introduction & Symptoms PART 1

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Here at Starfish Direct On-Med, we stock over 56 insect repellents and bite treatment products.  We stock all leading brands including a number of specialist products.  Specialist products are typically DEET FREE and best suited for children and those engaged in activities such as climbing and fishing. There are a small number of products specifically formulated to repel wasps, SHIFT! for example.

This is a general information page.  There are 4 guides in total. 

  • BITES, INSECTS - Introduction / Symptoms PART 1
  • BITES, INSECTS - Causes / Diagnosis PART 2
  • BITES, INSECTS - Treatment / Complications PART 3
  • BITES, INSECTS - Prevention PART 4

If you have a specific question, please contact us!  We will be delighted to assist you!  You can be assured of independent advice from knowledgeable professionals.


Insect bites are puncture wounds, or lacerations, caused by insects. In the UK, insects that bite include midges, gnats, mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and bedbugs.

When an insect bites, it releases a form of saliva that can lead to symptoms, such as inflammation, blisters, and irritation. Symptoms can vary depending on the type of insect involved, and the sensitivity of the person who is bitten. For example, a bite may result in a small, itchy lump that lasts for just a few days, or it can lead to a more serious reaction, such as papular urticaria (see diagnosis section).

You are more likely to be bitten by an insect if you work outdoors, or regularly take part in outdoor activities such as camping, or hiking. If large areas of your skin are exposed, such as on your arms or legs, these areas are more vulnerable to being bitten by an insect.

Although some insect bites can cause severe reactions, in the UK, it is unusual to catch diseases from them. However, in certain countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, the risk of catching diseases, such as malaria, is much greater.


Some people are particularly sensitive to certain insect bites and stings and, when they are bitten, react badly to them. Allergic reactions, such as blistering, or severe rashes, can be very serious and, in extreme cases, may even be life threatening. In such cases, you should dial 999 for emergency assistance.

An insect bite often causes a small lump to develop which is usually very itchy. A small hole (the actual bite) may be visible. The lump may have an inflamed area around it that may be filled with fluid. This is called a weal.

Insect bites normally clear up within 1-2 days.

However, if, after being bitten by an insect, any of the following symptoms occur, you should see your GP as soon as possible because the bite might be infected:

  • it becomes swollen
  • it does not disappear after about two days
  • a rash develops
  • you experience flu-like symptoms
  • you have swollen glands.


If you are bitten by an insect, you may become sensitive to its saliva. Being bitten again by the same, or a similar species, can provoke a local reaction to occur. For example, an itchy papule (lump), or an itchy weal (an inflamed, fluid-filled area) may develop, and last for several days. The severity of the reaction will depend on your level of sensitivity. However, if you continue to be exposed to the insects saliva (you continue to be bitten), you will eventually become immune to the saliva, and there will be no reaction at all.


Most insect bite reactions clear up quickly, only lasting for a few hours. But, occasionally, they can persist for several months. If you have a persistent infection following an insect bite, you may need to have follow-up treatment. You should seek advice from your GP about this.

In the case of tick bites, persistent reactions can occur, particularly if some of the insects mouth parts are not removed from the skin. However, most tick bites heal within three weeks.

Below are the symptoms that can occur from different types of insect bite:

Midges, mosquitoes, and gnats

Bites from midges, mosquitoes, and gnats often cause small papules (lumps) to form on the skin that are usually very itchy. If you are particularly sensitive to insect bites, bullae (blisters) or weals (circular, fluid-filled areas surrounding the bite) may occur. Mosquito bites in certain areas of tropical countries can cause malaria. 


Fleabites can be grouped in lines or clusters. If you are particularly sensitive to flea bites, they can lead to a condition known as papular urticaria (where lumps and/or lesions form). Bullae (fluid-filled blisters) may also sometimes develop. Cat and dog fleabites often occur below the knee, commonly around the ankles.


A bite from a horsefly can be very painful, and as well as the formation of a weal around the bite, you may experience urticaria, dizziness, weakness, wheezing or angio-oedema (itchy, pale pink, or red, swellings that often occur around the eyes and lips for short periods of time). As horseflies cut the skin when they bite (rather than pierce it), horsefly bites can take a long time to heal, and can cause infection.


Bites from bedbugs are not usually painful, and if you have not been bitten previously, you may not have any symptoms. However, if you are sensitised, you may develop intensely irritating weals (inflamed, fluid-filled area) and/or papules (lumps). Bites often occur on the face, neck, hands, and arms.

The Blandford fly

The Blandford fly (sometimes called blackfly) is found in an arc running from East Anglia, through Oxfordshire, and into Dorset. Blandford fly bites are common during May and June, and are extremely painful, frequently occurring on the legs. They can produce a severe, localised reaction, with symptoms including oedema (itchy, pale pink, or red, swellings), blistering, fever, and joint pain.


Ticks live in long grassy areas, and in forests where deer are found. Tick bites are not usually painful, and sometimes only cause a red papule (lump) to develop at the bite site. However, ticks can carry a bacterial infection, called Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. If Lyme disease is not treated, its effects can be serious (see complications section).

Starfish Direct On-Med is working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to do all that we can to help British travellers stay safe overseas. Before you travel, check out the FCO web site. British travellers can find out in a flash how to avoid trouble. Packed with essential travel advice and tips, the website offers a wealth of country specific information that only the FCO can provide.

Wherever you are going, you should check the FCO website or contact the FCO on: 0207 008 0232/0233. If you are travelling to areas where there may be conflict, wars or violence, it might just save your life.  With such great advice so close, make sure you check it out before you go.


Thank you !  Danke !  Σας ευχαριστούμε !  Grazie !  Obrigado !  ¡Gracias !  Merci !  Dank u ! 

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