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When to Be More Concerned than Bugged by a Bite

Loyola Physician Talks about Bug Bite Treatment and Prevention

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Whether they are invading your picnic, hitching a ride on your skin or just buzzing around your head, bugs are an annoying and unavoidable part of summer. Still, there are times when bugs are just a nuisance and times when they can cause serious illness or injury.

“Insect bite reactions can range from very mild to very severe. Fortunately, the majority of insect bites only cause symptoms that ‘bug’ us and shouldn’t cause alarm, such as skin redness, swelling and irritation near the site of the bite,” said Khalilah Babino, DO, immediate care physician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Mild reactions to insect bites can be treated without a trip to the doctor and respond well to home first-aid treatments:

  • Wash the bite area with soap and water
  • Apply a cool compress to bite area
  • Apply over-the-counter anti-itch creams
  • If the itching is persistent, try over-the-counter antihistamines
  • If the area has inflammation, try taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medications.

“Some insect bites can cause a reaction, such as a hivelike rash that can spread over exposed areas of skin like the arms and legs. This can be an indication of a more extensive reaction and it would be good to contact your primary care provider to have it checked out,” Babino said.

Insect bites also can lead to a more serious skin infection called cellulitis. Signs of the infection include:

  • Responds poorly to above treatments
  • Rash begins to spread
  • Bite area becomes increasingly red, firm, painful, warm to the touch and/or drains pus
  • Fever, fatigue and body aches begin to develop

Unfortunately, insect bites and stings can cause a severe and life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis with symptoms that include:

  • Severe widespread rash and/or flushing of skin
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure

“Anaphylaxis requires prompt medical attention. Patients may require oxygen, intravenous fluids, steroids and antihistamine injections. People who have these kinds of reactions should consult with an allergy specialist and learn how to use a self-injected epinephrine,” Babino said.

Though it’s extremely difficult to avoid all insect bites and stings, Babino offers some small steps to help prevent them.

  • Wear shoes, long-sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into socks when outdoors
  • Apply bug spray/insect repellent to skin and clothing
  • Wear gloves when working outdoors
  • Stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are more active
  • Make sure your yard is free of standing water as this could be a breeding ground for mosquitoes
  • Take extra precaution when in wooded areas where ticks are commonly found
  • Consider using insecticidal products or call a pest-control company if insects are present in large numbers
  • Keep your pets healthy and flea-free

Media: Please contact Evie Polsley at epolsley@lumc.edu or call (708) 216-5313 or (708) 417-5100 for more information.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Media Relations

Evie Polsley
Media Relations
(708) 216-5313
epolsley@lumc.edu
Media Relations
(708) 216-8232
adillon@lumc.edu