17 Signs Your Bug Bite Is Something Serious
Summer brings sunny days, backyard BBQs... and bugs.
Summer is many people's favorite season for a reason: Its days are packed with backyard barbecues, pool parties, and long days at the beach. But while the dog days provide plenty of sunshine and sangria, they come with a nuisance that's not an issue during the rest of the year: bugs. And it's not just that they're annoying, either; unfortunately, many of these irritating insects also have the potential to cause serious harm, thanks to their venom and the diseases they carry.
So if we can't avoid bugs altogether, then what is there to be done to prevent a trip to the hospital? For starters, you can memorize the signs we've compiled here that a bug bite is doing some serious damage to your body. Read on to find out what to look for, and when to get that bug bite checked out by a medical professional.
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The area around the bite is swelling.
Though swelling is a common reaction to most bug bites, excessive swelling can be a cause for concern. If you notice that the area around your bite is continuing to swell after a few days—or even that the swelling is extending to other parts of the body—then it's vital that you seek medical attention to identify the type of bite and receive treatment accordingly. In particular, a swollen eyelid is cause for concern, says Joseph Alton, MD, author of The Survival Medicine Handbook.
"[This is] known as 'Romana's sign,'" he tells Best Life. "It could be a sign of Chagas disease, an infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and transmitted to animals and people by insect vectors. The unusual swelling is caused by the parasite infecting the eyelid when bug feces is accidentally rubbed into the eye or from a bite nearby on the same side."
Alton says that although this parasite used to only be found in Latin America, it's now being reported in certain parts of the U.S.
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There is bruising.
Thanks to your body's autoimmune response, most insect bites will swell at the sight of puncture, but few will bruise unless there's something serious going on. Should a mysterious bite start to turn black and blue, it's likely that something is happening inside your body that needs to be checked out, like an allergic reaction to a mosquito's saliva or even a staph infection.
You're experiencing chest pain.
Though uncommon, bug bites can cause severe allergic reactions that have been known to result in fatal heart attacks. If you ever notice a bug bite on your body and subsequently begin to experience chest pain, head to the hospital right away.
Your throat is closing up.
According to the Mayo Clinic, bites from dangerous arachnids like the black widow and brown recluse generally clear up on their own, but in severe scenarios, these venomous stings can cause difficulties breathing and ulcerations at the site of penetration. These symptoms are indicative of a more serious issue, such as anaphylactic shock, and they shouldn't be ignored.
You feel dizzy.
Feeling dizzy after getting bitten by a bug could mean that you are allergic to said pest, according to the University of Texas' University Health Services. In other cases, it could also mean that you've been bitten by a black widow spider—and either way, you'll want to seek medical attention.
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You're throwing up.
Nausea can accompany several serious bug bite complications, including Lyme disease, Chikungunya virus, and venomous spider bites. Luckily, most of these complications can easily be treated by a medical professional, so long as you address them as soon as they start showing symptoms.
You find a bullseye on your skin.
Never ignore a bullseye rash surrounding a bug bite. In most cases, this rash is a telltale indication of Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness that, if left untreated, can cause arthritis, neurological disorders, and heart palpitations.
You have a fever.
If your temperature starts to spike after getting stung by an unknown bug, then you might be dealing with a brown recluse spider bite. Unfortunately, these spiders have venom more dangerous than that of a rattlesnake, and so if there's even a slight possibility that you've been bitten by one, you should head to the doctor immediately.
You're sweating profusely.
If you come back from an exotic vacation to a country like Brazil or China and begin to experience profuse sweating coupled with other symptoms like a high fever and diarrhea, you might be dealing with malaria. Because vaccinations to prevent malaria are required before traveling, it's unlikely that you'll ever come down with this mosquito-transmitted illness, but it's best to beware of the warning signs nonetheless.
You're experiencing nosebleeds.
Yet another reason to protect yourself from mosquitos in the summertime is Dengue fever. Uncommon but possible to contract in the United States, this illness can cause everything from pain behind the eyes to severe headaches—and, as it progresses, it can result in bleeding from the nose and gums, circulatory system failure, and liver enlargement.
You're getting frequent headaches.
Headaches can be indicative of several things, including chikungunya virus. Transmitted by female Aedes mosquitoes (of course), this infection has no prevention or cure, but doctors can prescribe pain medicine to make you more comfortable as the virus passes.
The skin around the bite is warm.
Immediately after getting bitten by a bug, it's normal for your body to fight back. For the first few days, you might notice that the skin around the bite is hot to the touch—but if the skin remains inflamed and warm after several days, you could be dealing with an infected bite that requires antibiotics.
Your glands are swollen.
Lymph nodes only swell up if the body is fighting off an infection—so if any of the glands on your body become enlarged after getting eaten alive by a bug, it's likely that this is the result of an infection. And depending on the type of bug that bit you, you could be suffering from everything from West Nile virus (thanks to a mosquito) to a bad reaction to a black widow bite.
You're unusually tired.
There's a difference between normal fatigue and exhaustion that won't subside. On the one hand, it's normal to be tired after staying out all night and getting just a few hours of rest. But if you're sleeping for 12 hours a night and are still waking up exhausted, then you might be dealing with one of several illnesses, like Lyme disease, chikungunya, or Ross River fever. Whatever the case may be, it's best to get yourself checked out, as chronic fatigue can severely impact your day-to-day life.
Your throat is swelling.
Any and all bug bites can cause a severe allergic reaction. And in the case of most of these reactions, you will almost immediately experience a severe swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat, which, if left untreated, can lead to difficulty breathing and even a closing of the airways entirely.
Your stomach is cramping.
Stomach pain is never a sign of something good. When coupled with a bug bite, this cramping could be a sign of a more serious issue, such as an allergic reaction, Babesiosis, or West Nile virus. And if your abdominal pain is coupled with vomiting and other symptoms on this list, then you should head to the doctor immediately to avoid further complications.
You're having sleep disturbances.
In a 2013 study published in the journal Quality of Life Research, scientists found that 41 percent of adults with Lyme disease experienced sleep disturbances and 60 percent experienced night sweats and chills. During the early stages of Lyme, having trouble sleeping is common, and it certainly shouldn't be ignored.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. If you have health questions or concerns, always consult your healthcare provider directly.