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What is the Difference in Bug Bites?

Friday, June 16, 2017 8:04 AM

Summertime means more time spent outside with the sun, the warm temperatures and the bugs. When skin irritation develops, how do you know what kind of bug bit it is? Nisha Desai, MD, Dermatology at NorthShore, breaks down the different types of bites and the symptoms.


Bug bites are usually noticeable and often itch. There are various types of bug bites, appearances and symptoms:

  • Mosquito bites are itchy, red and round bumps. Some mosquitoes can carry diseases – such as West Nile or Zika. Bites can be prevented with proper clothing and mosquito repellant.
  • Bed bug bites appear 24 hours to three days after being bit. They often appear in tight lines of multiple little red marks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bed bugs are common but do not carry any diseases.
  • Spider bite symptoms vary with most not being poisonous. Spider bites can cause minor irritations such as red skin, swelling or slight pain near the site of the bite. Symptoms such as tight chest, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or swelling of the face after a spider bite requires immediate medical attention.
  • Tick bites should be tended to right away because of the potential for Lyme disease. A red bump on the site of the tick bite is normal, but if a rash appears anywhere from 3 to 30 days after, that is a symptom of Lyme disease. In some cases, a tick bite can transmit Lyme disease even without a rash or in a part of the body where a rash may not be easily seen. The site of the tick bite often does not itch or cause pain and it can look like a bull’s-eye. Flu-like symptoms – fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and a headache – may accompany.
  • Ant bites and stings can be painful and cause red skin bumps. Fire ants are venomous and cause a severe allergy.

Rashes and bites should be left alone. Irritating them – like trying to scratch them – can cause the skin to break and increase the risk for infection. If rashes and bites do not go away or they get worse, then visit your primary care physician.