Sat. May 18th, 2024

Could YOU tell the difference? Pharmacist warns over eight tell-tale skin marks from a harmless midge bite to a dangerous spider wound

  • Pharmacist George Sandhu warns Brits not to overlook insect bites on their skin
  • Reactions to bites can include texture, spots, rashes and discolouration 

A pharmacist has warned Brits not to overlook insect bites as the summer season approaches as a bad reaction could prove life-threatening.

From subtle discolouration to a change in texture or feel, skin can serve as a silent messenger revealing the first signs of an underlying health condition.

George Sandhu, deputy pharmacy superintendent for Well Pharmacy said: ‘Insect bites and stings are not typically serious and often improve within a few days.

‘However, bites and stings can sometimes lead to infection or trigger a severe allergic reaction.

‘Some insect bites can even transmit illnesses like Lyme disease from ticks, scabies from mites, and malaria from mosquitoes in certain parts of the world.’

According to the pharmacist, it is key to be vigilant about any bites or lumps an insect may cause. Here are the eight most common you should keep an eye out for. 

Wasp and hornet stings

A stinger of a wasp or hornet can be left wedged into the skin after a sting (pictured)

Typically a wasp or hornet sting will leave an individual with a small mark where the stinger penetrated the skin. 

In some instances, the stinger may even be wedged into your skin following an wasp or hornet encounter.

However it is important to be mindful, following a sting of this kind as they do have the potential to be life threatening, according to the NHS.  

The sting can cause pain, redness and swelling for a few hours. Some people may also have a mild allergic reaction that lasts up to a week.

In extreme cases, a sting can cause anaphylaxis, leading to breathing difficulties, dizziness and a swollen face or mouth. 

Dial 999 immediately to request an ambulance if you experience these symptoms.

Bee stings

Not only is a bee sting often painful but it can be life-threatening if you have a severe allergy to the insect (pictured)

A bee sting may feel similar to a wasp sting – but crucially the stinger is usually left in the wound.

The sting can also cause pain, redness and swelling for a few hours.

Similarly to wasp stings, some people may have a mild allergic reaction that lasts up to a week. 

Like wasp, bee stings also have the potential to be life-threatening, and in severe cases can cause breathing difficulties, dizziness and a swollen face or mouth. 

If you have these symptoms you should call emergency services immediately.

When removing the sting, brush or scrape the stinger sideways with your fingernail or the edge of a bank card. 

You shouldn’t use tweezers to pull out a stinger as you could squeeze more poison into your body. Make sure to wash the area with soap and water.

Mosquito bites

Mosquitos don’t pose a huge risk in the UK, but in certain parts of the world they can carry deadly diseases such as malaria (pictured: mosquito bite)

A mosquito bite usually materialises in a small, raised and itchy mark on your skin. 

They often appear to be small red lumps on the skin, and in some people develop into fluid-filled blisters. 

Although mosquitoes don’t cause major harm in the UK, they can be deadly in other parts of the world, spreading illnesses such as malaria.

If you experience a high temperature, chills, headaches or feel nauseous after a mosquito bite abroad you should seek medical assistance right away.

Tick bites

Tick’s are bolder in the stinging approach burrowing themselves head first into your skin (pictured)

In comparison ticks will burrow their head’s into your skin.

Bites from the small spider-like creatures are often not immediately painful, however you may experience itchiness, blistering, swelling and bruising on the skin as more time passes.

Some ticks potentially harbour some serious infections such as Lyme disease, so they must be immediately removed once discovered on the skin. 

A key sign of Lyme disease caused by a tick bite is a rash that looks like a bullseye on a dartboard.

Another indicator of Lyme disease due to a tick bite is a fever. 

If you develop any symptoms you can visit your local pharmacist under the Pharmacy First service rather than waiting for a GP.

Horsefly bites

Horsefly bites are very painful and can even bleed and become infected (pictured). If you start to experience additional symptoms you should visit your GP

Horsefly bites are extremely painful and can sometimes even bleed and become infected.

However, unlike some other bites on this list they are not life threatening. 

The red and raised bite can sometimes become a larger raised rash (called hives or urticaria).

You may experience dizziness, weakness, wheezing and part of your body becoming puffy and swollen as a result of a bite.

It is recommended that you visit your local GP if you have symptoms of an infection, such as pus or increasing pain, redness and swelling.

Midge bites

Midge bites appear on the skin as small raised sots, and can sometimes develop into fluid-filled blisters (pictured)

Midge bites are usually small and raised in groups and emerge as several dots on the skin.

Midge and gnat bites are often very similar to mosquito bites in appearance.

Similarly to mosquito bites the typically small, red lumps can also be painful and very itchy, and can on occasion can swell to worrying sizes.

Although some individuals may develop fluid-filled blisters as a result of a midge bite, they are not life-threatening.

Mite bites

Mite bites appear as very itchy lumps on the skin and can sometimes develop into blisters – but they are not life threatening (pictured)

Mite bites materialise on the surface of the skin as very itchy lumps and can even develop into blisters.

Mites usually bite uncovered skin, but you may be bitten on your stomach and thighs if your pet has mites and has been sitting on your lap.

In some instances, mites will crawl into your skin, causing a condition also known as scabies.  

Mite bites are not life-threatening.

Flea bites

Flea bites are typically found in clusters below the knees and are very uncomfortable and irritating – but they don’t pose a risk to your life (pictured)

Flea bites appear as itchy red dots and are most typically found in clusters below the knees.

According to the NHS, fleas usually come about from cats and dogs often biting below the knee and around the ankle area. 

Equally if you have been looking after your pet and holding them in your arms, flea bites may also be dotted along your forearms. 

Although flee bites are uncomfortable and irritating, they do not pose a risk to your life.

Spider bite

Spider bites are uncommon but these small puncture marks can be deadly if you have a severe allergic reaction (pictured: woodlouse hunter spider bite)

Being nibbled by a spider in the UK is quite uncommon however some creepy crawlies who are native to British shores have the potential to give you a nasty bite. 

Spider bites leave small puncture marks on the skin, which can be painful and cause redness and swelling. 

A spider bit will leave small puncture marks on your skin, which have the potential to be quite painful.

These bite marks could also result in redness and swelling. 

Some spider bites have the potential to be life-threatening, as some become infected or cause a severe allergic reaction in rare cases.

Some spider bites can also cause sickness, sweating and dizziness. 

Get medical help immediately if you have any severe or worrying symptoms after a spider bite.

Well Pharmacy’s George Sandhu added: ‘If you’re uncertain about whether you’ve been bitten or stung by an insect, it’s advisable to seek medical advice.

‘Prompt removal of any stingers, ticks, or other foreign bodies, along with appropriate symptom management, can help alleviate discomfort and reduce the risk of complications.

‘As part of the new Pharmacy First service, Pharmacists can offer advice and recommend suitable treatments for infected insect bites, which may include prescription strength medicines.

‘They can also suggest over the counter antihistamines and pain relief to help alleviate symptoms.

‘However, if symptoms worsen or if there are signs of a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling of the lips, throat, or difficulty breathing, immediate medical attention is necessary.’

As part of the Pharmacy First scheme in England, patients can seek advice and treatment for insect bites at their local pharmacy, rather than going to see a GP. 

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