What are the signs and symptoms of insect bites?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: Boyd (Bo) D Burns, DO, FACEP, FAAEM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
  • Print

In a local reaction, the patient may complain of discomfort, itching, moderate or severe pain, erythema, tenderness, warmth, and edema of tissues surrounding the site. Although it may involve neighboring joints, local reactions cause no systemic symptoms.

In a severe local reaction, complaints include generalized erythema, urticaria, and pruritic edema. Severe local reactions increase the likelihood of serious systemic reactions if the patient is exposed again at a later time.

In a systemic or anaphylactic reaction, the patient may complain of localized symptoms as well as symptoms not contiguous with the bite location. Symptoms can range from mild to fatal. Early complaints typically include generalized rash, urticaria, pruritus, and angioedema. These symptoms may progress, and the patient may develop anxiety, disorientation, weakness, gastrointestinal disturbances (eg, cramping, diarrhea, vomiting), uterine cramping in women, urinary or fecal incontinence, dizziness, syncope, hypotension, stridor, dyspnea, or cough. As the reaction progresses, patients may experience respiratory failure and cardiovascular collapse. [19]

Delayed reactions may appear 10-14 days after a sting. Symptoms of delayed reactions resemble serum sickness and include fever, malaise, headache, urticaria, lymphadenopathy, and polyarthritis.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!