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Insect and Spider Bites

In Allergic Reactions, First Aid, Prevention, Skin Problems, Travel by Mariana Calleja10 Comments

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Mosquito Bite |Property of Google Images|

 How to recognise them, what to do and when to go to the doctor.

Because no one on Earth is free if insect bites in their life time, let me share a general idea and advice on insect and spider bites.

What is an insect bite and why it happens?

A bite is the action that takes place when an organism, say insect, spider or other, feels agitated and needs to defend itself from danger detected through their various sensors, or when they need to feed themselves.

Did you know that most bites our human body gets are caused by female species?

Why? Because they are the ones reproducing and holding eggs inside.

As you all know, pregnancy requires nutrients. The same happens for insects. And one of the main nutrients during pregnancy are proteins…the exquisite and most basic nutrient WHICH flows in our bloodstream. And this is the reason why we get bites many times: because female pregnant insects are looking for nutrients/proteins to feed their eggs. So as they bite our skins, they go straight inside looking for our veins in order to drink our blood. As simple (and creepy) as it sounds.

This video here might be a bit graphic for some, but it is definitely an interesting one showing how insects do this: feeding from your vein. It is actually impressive. So hit the play button for some exciting 30 seconds of a bite as seen through a microscope. I promise it’s not gross just interesting-weird!

 Insects vs. Spiders

Insect bites are usually not dangerous and will most likely heal without any medical measures. Many times, people are not even aware they have been bitten until they feel some itching a few hours/days afterwards.

Spider bites instead can be dangerous and they need to be examined most of the times. Why? Because all spiders have the capacity to produce poisonous substances. And you never really know what kind of spider just bit you.

Symptoms_of_Spider_bite

|Google Images|

 

*If possible, catch the spider and keep it so your doctor can see it. This applies for mosquitoes too. It’s a practical thing to do and us, doctors, will appreciate it in the emergency room if you bring us the insect or spider that you think just bit you.*

 Kinds of Reactions

Before I explain more, just remember a basic: Redness on the skin = Inflammation (ALWAYS and nothing else).

1. Mild: tiny local skin reactions smaller than 5 cm, that will usually heal without making anything about them. It can be a bit of redness, inflammation (redness), itchiness, a weal on the skin, even a vesicle some times. But nothing else. Applying ice on the area will be good enough to ease the acute pain or itchiness.

2. Medium: skin reactions larger than 5 cm-wide but still limited to the skin only. Some more symptoms could arouse such as tingling sensation.

3. Severe: Any symptom beyond the skin. These are usually dangerous and could develop in a short period of time, usually involving fever, headaches, respiratory symptoms like a breathing difficulty sensation, intensive coughing, cramps, swelling of the face and/or general tingling sensation throughout the body, even paralysis in extreme (unusual) cases.

 

Bite Differences Photos

What to do?

First of all: don’t panic! Most insect bites will disappear on their own and with no further reactions.

Second: Wanted – Dead or Alive. Check if you can see the insect or spider responsible of the bite. If possible, catch it and keep it somewhere safe and away from your skin.

Third: get some ice or anything cold to apply on the bitten skin. This will help avoid further inflammation and itchiness.

Last: If the reaction seems unusual (severe symptoms) look for the nearest emergency room or doctor available.

*Remember you can always get in touch with me for medical guidance.*

Wanted Dead or Alive

When to go to the doctor/ER?

  • Fever higher than 38ºC/100ºF
  • Breathing/swallowing trouble
  • Strong acute headache, nausea or vomiting
  • Tingling sensation throughout the body
  • General sudden skin rash

 Treatment and Remedies

Most common remedies are mainly to diminish the symptoms such as itchiness and inflammation. As long as symptoms keep within the mild range, you can go with any of these. If reaction expands, you should always go to a doctor or emergency room near you.

1. Topic

  • Ice or anything cold on the injury. It will help reduce the immediate inflammation that will begin right after the bite.
  • Corticosteroids: medication that blocks inflammation reactions in the body, reducing the immediate symptoms. They can be found as cream or lotion at pharmacies, over-the-counter (OTC). No prescription  required. Ej: Hydrocortisone or Prednisone creams.
  • Anaesthetics: usually as a spray or cream, such as Lidocaine or Benzocaine. Applied locally, these will put your skin on “pause”, blocking sensation and making pain disappear. This option WILL NOT make inflammation go away, just the pain. So it is important to combine it with something else to avoid inflammation.

2. Oral

Antihistamines: pills containing a medication that makes cells to stop, block or delay the inflammation process in the body. It will help avoid the swelling as well as the itchiness. They are also an OTC medication. Also known as antiallergic medication.

Antihistamines are in the same pills used for rhinitis, flu or similar. Those “cocktail-pills” for the flu will always contain some antihistamines. If you can’t access a pharmacy where you are but you’ve got some meds for the flu, then go ahead and take them in case of an insect bite. It will help too.

3. Alternative Remedies

These are some I found while researching for this post. I haven’t tried them myself but apparently they have been useful to a good part of humanity many times.

  • Olive Oil
  • Calamine: traditional remedy for mild itching, containing zinc and iron oxide.
  • Baking Soda + Water: to be applied on the skin.
  • Burow Solution: an astringent made with aluminum acetate which soothes and provides relief.
  • Mint oil, Mentol or Camphor. Anything oily helps to ease the symptoms too.

Prevent

Repellents! Always and forever.

There are several ingredients in some repellents that are said to be the ideal ones in order to prevent bites. You can look any repellents containing these:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin
  • IR3535
  • Plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus

 *There is a lot discussed about DEET, mostly among bio and organic users, which is completely valid. I am suggesting here the regular and usual prevention products that can be bought on regular stores. Of course we can extend the topic for healthy reasons on a different post. I’d be happy to hear your knowledge and suggestions on bio-products for insect bite prevention.*

 If you found this info useful, please pass it along to more travellers. I’m happy to teach you, so you can share the knowledge and the wisdom!


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Comments

    1. Author
      Mariana Calleja

      Glad to know it was helpful! Thanks for your kind message, Georgo 🙂

  1. Lillie Barnes

    A “bite” about a month old. Bitten in my sleep, presuming it was a spider. ( did not find it)The effected area was a little larger than a knuckle, but not quite as large as a quarter.Took all the usual steps to soothe the itch and minor pain. As it was going away, I noticed a hard “kernel” in the center of the bite that was still a bit tender. About a week ago, I showed this to my naturopathic doctor, who gave me some drawing salve. At first nothing happened, and I thought it would just continue to go away.

    The issue is that the center is now becoming soft and red and itches like crazy, almost as much as the original bite. Should I seek medical help? Might there be something in that bite that could still harm me? Like eggs?

    I would appreciate a response.
    Thank you so much.
    Lillie

    1. Author
      Mariana Calleja

      Hi Lillie! Thanks on your comment. Well, let’s see: it seems, based on your description, that there might still be some reaction in your skin because you are having some itchiness and redness, which are definitely a sign of inflammation, meaning that the skin can still sense something unusual in there so it is trying to fight it. It’s important to ask a few things: Where did you got that bite? Have you had any fever recently? Is there any kind of secretion coming out from the injury? Is there a black central dot on the injury? Also: have you applied ice and anti-inflammatory creams in the area, besides the salve? Bites can take long to heal, but eventually after a few weeks even a month, they should be almost gone, depending if it was an insect, a flea, a spider, a cockroach or any other.

      Since the bite is a month old and it’s getting active again, I would suggest to get it checked. Preventive medicine is the best kind of practice we can all do. Maybe it’s nothing further and it will finally disappear. But it would be important to be sure there’s nothing else. I hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any other doubts and how it goes. 😉

      1. Lillie Barnes

        Thank you Marianna.

        The bite is on left side of my abdomen. One single “bite” and no others like it ever. No secretion, no black dot. It had been very quiet, fading on color and shrinking in size, I believed it was finally going away completely, until the last few days.

        I’m a child of California, relocated to Arkansas a couple years ago. Seems there are a lot of biting, stinging, insects/spiders in this state – and I am not familiar with them – a “buffalo gnat” (black fly) reaction stumped the local doctors. Seems if it stings or bites, I’m allergic.

        Thank you for the good advice. I will follow up with a local doctor.

        Lillie

        1. Author
          Mariana Calleja

          My pleasure, Lillie! Seems like just an allergic reaction then, but definitely better to be checked up. Cheers.

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  4. Mercedes Miguel Díaz

    Hi Mariana! I am the daughter of one of the old ladys who were standing at the “resi”. My problem as a traveller comes because I do a sport that involves running around into the European woods. there are some VERY NASTY ticks waiting for you there. Could you recommend any specific repellent? or else, where can I find twizzers to remove them? I am unable to find a place that sells the kind. Thank you! Mercedes

    1. Author
      Mariana Calleja

      Hi Mercedes! Thanks for your kind message and for reading my site. As for specific repellents to be used on European woods I could suggest the Relec brand. There are some other repellents with specific components but mostly suitable for the tropics, such as Asia or Central-South America. The good thing about the woods in the northern hemisphere is that insects are not greater disease transmitters which leaves the symptom-side of any kind of bite as the main concern in most cases. Regarding tweezers, any kind is good. It depends on the comfort for your hand and a proper pick to grab tiny objects/insects/sharp points. You can find them at pharmacies or even at regular supermarkets. If you want to visit a specific store for travel gear and accessories, I can recommend these: Decathlon, Altair (travel bookstore and accessories) and Intersport.

      I hope this can be helpful!

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