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Allergic reaction to insect bites

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

Insect bites are common, and for most people, they’re nothing more than a temporary annoyance. However, for some people, insect bites can trigger serious allergic reactions that require immediate attention. 

Understanding what an allergic reaction looks like and knowing when to seek medical help can make all the difference. 

What does an allergic reaction to an insect bite look like?

An allergic reaction to an insect bite can range from mild to severe with varying symptoms.

Common signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • The area around the bite may become red, swollen, and itchy
  • Raised, itchy welts may develop on the skin, spreading beyond the bite site
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing, wheezing, or tightness in the chest
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or even fainting

Call 111 if:

If you or someone else experiences symptoms of an allergic reaction to an insect bite, it’s crucial to seek medical advice promptly. 

Call 111 or visit for non-emergency medical assistance if:

  • The symptoms are mild, but you’re unsure how to manage them
  • You’re uncertain whether the symptoms indicate an allergic reaction
  • You need advice on over-the-counter medications or home remedies to alleviate symptoms

Trained medical professionals at the NHS 111 service can assess the situation and provide guidance on the next steps.

Call 999 if:

In some cases, an allergic reaction to an insect bite can be severe and potentially life-threatening. 

Call 999 for emergency medical assistance if:

  • The person is experiencing difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • There is swelling in the face, lips, or throat that could obstruct the airway
  • The person shows signs of anaphylaxis, such as rapid heartbeat, confusion, or loss of consciousness
  • Previous severe allergic reactions have occurred, even if the current symptoms seem mild

Emergency responders are equipped to provide immediate medical treatment, including adrenaline injections if necessary, to manage severe allergic reactions.

Frequently asked questions about insect bites

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction to insect bites?

Common symptoms of allergic reaction to insect bites include swelling, itching, redness, and hives. Call 111 if severe, or 999 in case of emergency.

What’s the difference between a normal insect bite and an allergic reaction?

A normal insect bite typically results in mild symptoms like itching and redness, while an allergic reaction causes more severe symptoms such as swelling, hives, and difficulty breathing.

What should I do if I have an allergic reaction to an insect bite?

If you have a severe allergic reaction to an insect bite, call 999 immediately. Use your adrenaline auto-injector (EpiPen) if available, use it again after 5 minutes if your symptoms have not improved.

A man's leg with multiple infected mosquito bites

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