Pest Guides

Preventing and Treating Insect Bites

Protecting you and your family from Insect Bites

Insects bite to feed on blood. The bites themselves are not usually painful, but it is the itchiness that results that causes discomfort.

It is especially distressing when suffering from multiple or repeat insect bites. This is often the case with biting insects in the home, particularly from fleas or bed bugs.

However, your home can be treated to get rid of any biting insect and there are basic precautions that can significantly reduce the risks when outdoors.

Biting Insects and Your Health

In many parts of the world, biting insects spread serious diseases such as Malaria, Typhus, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus and Encephalitis. India regularly experiences large outbreaks of Chikungunya, Dengue, Malaria, Japanese B Encephalitis and others. It is necessary to minimize insect bites in order to reduce the risks of contracting one of these, sometimes fatal, diseases. There have also been smaller outbreaks of Plague, which were caused by rat flea bites.

There is a small risk of contracting Lyme disease from ticks found on long grasses where there are deer or farm animals – follow the advice below for avoiding insect bites when outdoors.

The main risk from biting insects is the skin irritation caused by the bites. When insects bite, they inject saliva to ensure the The immediate risk from insect bites however is the skin irritation caused by the bites. When insects bite, they inject saliva to ensure the blood flows without clotting. It is the immune response to this saliva that causes the irritation.

Sensitivity to Insect Bites

Insects seem to prefer biting some individuals more than others and we show different levels of sensitivity to bites. In general though, younger children and those who are bitten repeatedly are more sensitive.

Insect bites rarely require medical treatment. However, call an ambulance immediately if a bite causes swelling to the throat, mouth or tongue that restricts breathing.

There is more risk of an allergic reaction to insect stings (usually from wasps or bees) than insect bites. Again, call an ambulance if a sting is suspected and there are symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.

Treating Insect Bites

The most important treatment for an insect bite is to clean the wound and to keep it under hygienic conditions.  

If any insect debris has been left in the wound, remove carefully with fingernails or tweezers.  Then clean the bite using soap and water or alcohol wipes.

Swelling can be reduced immediately after a bite by covering it with a cold compress such as ice in a cloth (but never hold ice directly on the skin).

The swelling from a bite may take more than a week to go down and may remain itchy for several days.

The itchiness and swelling can be relieved with anti-histamine creams for bites and stings. Oral anti-histamine (“hayfever tablets”) can also help especially where there are multiple bites.

Try not to scratch bites as this will increase the itch and could lead to the bite becoming infected by bacteria.

Consult a doctor if:

  • The swelling or pain is so severe that it prevents moving around or sleeping
  • The swelling continues to worsen more than a day after the bite
  • The bite appears to be infected

Repeat bites such as those caused by a flea infestation can lead to sensitised skin and dermatitis.  Consult a pharmacist or doctor for treatment.

Identifying Insect Bites

In most cases, it is difficult to identify the insect from its bite. Reactions to bites vary so much that it often leads to a misdiagnosis.

Generally it is more important to identify where the bite occurred and look for other indicators to identify the insect and ensure that the area can be treated or avoided to avoid future bites.

Biting Insects in the home

It can be distressing to have an infestation of biting insects in the home, but there is no need to tolerate them as there are treatments to deal with them.

In India, the three most common sources of insect bites in the home are:

Mosquitoes 1) Mosquitoes and other biting flies:
  • Usually bite after dusk or at night
  • Tend to be near slow-moving water
  • Often seen resting on ceilings and upper walls

Keep windows closed at night or use fly screens to prevent mosquitoes entering the home. Once inside the home, mosquitoes can be treated like other flying insects.

Cat Flea (Ctenocephalides felis) 2) Fleas:
  • Associated with cats and dogs as pets, but also with rats and there are human flea species as well
  • Often found when moving into a home that used to have pets
  • Will switch to biting humans when pets not present
  • Bites often clustered around ankles and lower legs

Please refer to our guide for treating fleas if you suspect you have an infestation in your home.

Bedbug (Cimex hemipterus) 3) Bedbugs:
  • Nocturnal insects that bite at night
  • Bites can be anywhere on the body
  • Small spots of blood left on bed linen
  • Staining of mattresses and surrounding areas

Please refer to our guide for treating bedbugs if you suspect you have an infestation in your home.

While these are the most common causes of insect bites in the home, there are many others - however they can all be treated.

Rentokil offers a call-out service to deal with all types of biting insect and other pest problems in the home.  Our service is fast, effective and offers the highest level of safety for your family and pets.

If you would like further advice or to arrange a visit from one of our service technicians, call us free on 01800 102 9888.

Outdoor Biting Insects

It is often difficult to identify when and where you were bitten, never mind the insect that bit you.  If bitten, the best advice is to take steps not to let it happen again.

To avoid being bitten when outdoors:

  • Avoid wearing bright colours and strong scents such as perfumes and deodorants as these attract insects
  • Wear long sleeves, trousers, footwear and hats to reduce exposed skin
  • Use insect repellent sprays on exposed skin
  • Use insect repelling products or candles when sitting
  • Avoid leaving sweet drinks and foods exposed
  • Avoid areas of still or stagnant water
  • Avoid brushing through long grass or bushes
  • Tuck trousers into socks when hiking through brush or rough grass

These precautions are especially important from dusk into the night when many biting insects are most active.