Categorized | Healthy Lifestyle

Don’t let bugs bites out of your fun

By Dr. David Rideout

New Englanders are blessed with a varied landscape of lush gardens, beautiful forests and pretty seashores. With this incredible landscape comes some unwanted visitors: biting insects. Most bites are harmless, but sometimes they require a visit to a doctor in order to ensure they don’t become a health concern. Here is a guide to the most common insect bites, how to self-treat and when it makes sense to see a physician.

Dr. Rideout(RXcolumn)Mosquito bites — Mosquitoes bite because they feed on human blood. They inject a small amount of their saliva into your skin that causes an immune reaction in your body. You may first notice a white and puffy lump, and soon to follow will be itching. Everyone’s response is different to the bite. For some, the reaction can be very intense, with large welts forming and intense itching. Apply a cold pack to relieve itching. Use over the counter hydrocortisone creams. Try not to scratch the bites, as this just increases the immune response and itching.

When to seek medical attention — Mosquitoes in New England can carry blood-borne diseases like West Nile disease and Eastern Equine encephalitis. If you develop a fever, redness and swelling around the bite areas, headaches, body aches or swollen lymph nodes seek medical attention. Also, if the area is not healing, you may have a secondary skin infection that needs a doctor’s attention. If you are planning a vacation in a tropical area obtain a travel consultation to prepare for other mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and yellow fever.

Bee and wasp stings — When you are stung by a bee, the insect leaves a stinger in your skin, which continues to release venom. The venom causes an immediate immune reaction resulting in swelling and inflammation around the site of the sting.

If you are stung by a bee and are not allergic, immediately remove the stinger with a straight edged item like a credit card by swiping the card side to side across the surface of the sting. A wasp sting is different in that the insect retains its stinger but can sting multiple times and inject venom with each of its stings. Regardless of whether it is a bee or wasp sting the following measures can help with your discomfort: Ice the area to bring down the swelling. If you were stung in your arm or leg elevate it. Remove any jewelry from the area of the sting because as the area swells, rings or bracelets may be difficult or impossible to remove. For pain, take an over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. For itchiness, take an anti-histamine.

When to seek immediate medical attention — Allergic reactions can be life threatening. Call 911 if the person stung has trouble breathing, feeling of faintness or dizziness, hives, a swollen tongue or throat, or a history of severe reaction to insect stings. You should also see a physician if you have incurred multiple stings.

David Rideout is the lead physician at Doctors Express in the Saugus Center, one of 10 Eastern Massachusetts offices, offering seven-day walk-in urgent medical care. Dr. Rideout can be reached at 781- 233-1000. For more information visit our website at To read additional articles visit


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