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Piqûre d’insecte : comment la reconnaître ?

Insect Bites and Stings: How to Recognize Them?

Mosquito, wasp, horsefly, tick, spider… So many insects that can sting or bite us. This causes some skin inconveniences, most often of a benign nature. Nevertheless, insect bites and stings can sometimes be more serious and cause an allergic reaction or even diseases. So, how to recognize different types of insect bites and gauge its harmlessness?

Summary
Published December 19, 2022, by Maylis, Chemical Engineer, — 5 min read

Why Do We Get Bitten?

With the heat of the summer, insects are numerous. Most of them sting or bite to protect themselves or their territory. Generally, this situation occurs when you get too close to them or make sudden movements. They then perceive a danger and defend themselves by biting.

In addition, some insects such as mosquitoes and ticks bite to feed. For example, in mosquitoes, only the females bite to feed on human blood in order to reproduce.

Some bites are completely painless (e.g., mosquito bites) while others can be painful. Mainly, it occurs following an allergic reaction to the venom deposited by the labrum (the insect's mouth) or its stinger

The vast majority of stings are benign and the discomfort they cause is minor. However, if you are allergic to the venom of an insect and the location of the sting, some stings can be life-threatening.

Which Sting/Bite Corresponds to Which Insect?

On the skin, the shape of an insect bite or sting depends on the type of parasite.

  • Bee and wasp stings are most often painful. They leave a puncture wound or laceration of the skin, due to the venom that causes a local toxic reaction at the site of the sting. The area is swollen, and a black spot is typically visible, which corresponds to the sting of the insect. It is advisable to disinfect the area with an antiseptic solution. If the sting is still present in the skin, it must be removed gently without pressing on the venom sac by scraping with the back of a knife or other sharp object. Tweezers are not recommended as they can squeeze the venom sac and increase the amount of venom released into the wound.

  • The Mosquito usually does leave insect bites that itch, but normally, they’re not painful. They take the form of small, round, swollen bumps and appear shortly after the bite. The two species that bite the most are the tiger mosquito and the common mosquito. The tiger mosquito is more dangerous than the common mosquito because it can carry viruses such as Chikungunya, Dengue and Zika. 

  • The Horsefly is of the order of the Diptera that can bite and cause an intense burning sensation. The bite is accompanied by a large red pimple, usually more extensive than a mosquito bite. Occasionally, there is swelling around the bite area or even bruising.

  • Tick bites are recognizable because they form unusual black spots on the skin. These are actually the bodies of the ticks, with their heads buried under the skin to better draw blood. Their bites can transmit various diseases, including Lyme disease, linked to an infection by the Borrelia bacteria.  After an outing in nature, you must therefore remember to observe your body and skin to detect the slightest tick, and remove it completely, without forgetting the head.

  • A spider bite most often causes redness, itching and swelling. Every so often there are two small red holes in the center of the lesion, which are the marks of the spider's fangs.

When should I be concerned and seek medical attention?

Most insect bites and stings are benign. However, if the redness spreads more and more and becomes very painful, you should consult your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible. It is advisable not to scratch the stung area excessively in order not to cause an infection.

If the sting is in the throat or on the tongue, you should immediately call for help or go to the emergency room, as it can hinder breathing.

Furthermore, if symptoms such as chills, sweating, drop in blood pressure, malaise, vomiting appear, contact emergency services immediately.

Some people are allergic to wasp or bee venom. Their stings can cause anaphylactic shock or angioedema, two physical manifestations that can be fatal.

Therefore, after an insect bite, it is always

best to be alert to the slightest symptoms. 

If you have the slightest doubt about 

the seriousness of the sting/bite,

do not hesitate to consult your doctor!

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