What are the clinical implications of insect bites?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: Boyd (Bo) D Burns, DO, FACEP, FAAEM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Insects are arthropods of the class Insecta. Insects have an adult stage characterized by a hard exoskeleton, 3 pairs of jointed legs, and a body segmented into head, thorax, and abdomen. Insects comprise the most diverse and numerous class of the animal kingdom and include numerous species of praying mantis, dragonflies, grasshoppers, true bugs, flies, fleas, bees, wasps, ants, lice, butterflies, moths, and beetles. The number of species is estimated at between 6 and 10 million, with more than a million species already described. Insects represent more than half of all known living organisms and potentially represent more than 90% of the differing life forms on Earth. Hence, human contact with insects is unavoidable. Exposure to biting or stinging insects or to their remains can range in severity from benign or barely noticeable to life threatening.

See the image below.

Insect Bites. Louse, Pediculus humanus, dorsal vie Insect Bites. Louse, Pediculus humanus, dorsal view after feeding on blood. Most lice are scavengers, feeding on skin and other debris found on the host's body, but some species feed on sebaceous secretions and blood. Image courtesy of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

See When Bugs Feast: What's Causing that Itch?, a Critical Images slideshow, to help identify various skin reactions, recognize potential comorbidities, and select treatment options.

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