Bug Bites: When to See a Doctor

Insect bites and spider bites are common ailments that can usually be treated at home. However, some bug bites can become serious. Know when a bug bite can be treated at home and when you should visit urgent care.

Bug bites can come from many different insects and arthropods. These include ants, bed bugs, beetles, mosquitos, spiders, and ticks. While they can cause discomfort and irritation, bug bites are usually minor. Typical symptoms of bug bites include:

  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Bumps
  • Redness

When symptoms remain minor, home treatment can help ease the discomfort. If your bug bite stings, burns, or tingles, you can cool the area with ice or cold cloth. If you’re wondering how to stop bug bites from itching, try applying some calamine lotion, baking soda paste, or hydrocortisone ointment.

Bed Bug Bites

Some insects, such as bed bugs, may require special attention. What do bed bug bites look like? They are usually itchy and inflamed, resembling mosquito bites. The bites are typically arranged in a rough line or a zigzag cluster. They can appear on any body part that is exposed while you sleep.

If you suspect you may have bed bugs, you’ll need to know how to treat bed bug bites. Wash bed bug bites gently with soap and water. Then, use an anti-itch medication and take an antihistamine if needed.

If you find evidence of bed bugs (such as exoskeletons, scat, or blood stains on your sheets), contact a professional to safely rid your home of bed bugs.

Tick Bites

Ticks can transfer Lyme disease and other illnesses to humans through biting. If you find a tick in your skin, it’s important to remove it carefully.

The best way to remove a tick is to gently pull it out with tweezers, gripping it near the head and being careful not to crush it. Then, wash the bite and your hands with rubbing alcohol, soap, and water. This method reduces the risk of the tick regurgitating its stomach contents into your body and infecting you.

Tick bites do not always require medical attention. However, if you develop a rash around a tick bite, this could indicate disease transfer. See a medical provider for testing.

Signs That Your Bug Bite Needs Medical Care

Some insects and arthropods can transfer venom or diseases by biting. Other bug bites can be worsened by allergies or when they become infected. If you see any of the following signs or symptoms after being bitten, seek medical attention from your doctor or your local urgent care provider.

  1. Immune Response

An immune response can result from an allergy, or it can indicate the presence of venom or diseases transferred to you through a bug bite. Look for the following symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Swelling
  • Blisters

If these symptoms occur, an urgent care doctor can provide treatment and check for the presence of venom or diseases.

  1. Infection

It is possible for bug bites to become infected. The risk of infection increases when you scratch the bite. Signs of an infected bug bite include:

  • Pus
  • Redness

If your bug bite takes a long time to heal, it may be time to visit a medical provider. Your medical provider can help treat the bite and prevent infection.

  1. Changes in Appearance

If your bug bite gets larger or changes its appearance, you may have an infection or a disease called impetigo. Visit an urgent care provider if you notice the following:

  • Changes in the size or shape of the bite
  • Unusual growths
  • Skin crusting over

Your healthcare provider may need to prescribe a strong antibiotic to heal the infection and prevent it from spreading.

  1. Flu-Like Symptoms

Flu-like symptoms can appear up to 3 weeks after a bite from certain insects or spiders. These symptoms may indicate a more serious problem. Keep an eye out for these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Joint or muscle aches
  • Swollen glands
  • Malaise (a general feeling of illness)

These symptoms could be the sign of a toxic reaction to venom or one of many insect-borne diseases. Visit your urgent care provider to diagnose and treat the cause of your symptoms.


There are several ways to avoid bug bites and their complications. Use bug repellant when outdoors, and avoid areas high in biting insects. Avoid walking through tall grass, where ticks hide. Check yourself and your pets for ticks after going outdoors.

If you get a bug bite, resist the urge to scratch it. Monitor your bug bite for concerning symptoms. Visit your doctor or urgent care clinic promptly if concerning symptoms appear. An urgent care provider can treat your bug bites early to help prevent further complications.

To walk in or book your urgent care visit, find a Physicians Immediate Care location near you.