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People experience more or less severe reactions to bites or stings, although babies and children may be more affected by bites or stings than adults. Insect bites and stings often cause minor swelling, redness, pain, and itching which are common and may last from a few hours to a few days.

Sometimes, however, bites and stings can cause allergic reactions. This happens if you are allergic to the insect’s saliva or venom. Allergic reactions are usually located around the area of the bite or sting and are called a "localised reaction".

Bee and wasp stings are usually immediately obvious. A sharp pain is followed by a burning sensation that soon resolves into a major itch. A red ring or bump then appears at the site of the sting. Stingers can be barbed and remain in the skin, although some stinging insects lack barbs on their stingers and can attack again and again. The most serious immediate reactions occur from stings of the yellow-and-black flying insects.

Bites from insects that feed on your blood usually result in itchy spots or lumps that clear up within a day or so. Others cause no symptoms while they’re biting. The only way to find them is to examine your skin each night. Most people can guess at what’s bitten them by looking at the wound or welt site. Black flies, for example, leave bites that look similar to those from mosquito but they have small vesicle(fluid filled cyst) at the spot where the bite is and occur around the head, neck and ears, while fleas often bite repeatedly around the feet and lower legs. Bedbugs tend to leave lines of bites, usually on the torso.

Some people experience both the immediate and the delayed reactions from the same insect bite or sting. Most reactions to insect bites are mild and can cause an annoying itch or sting with mild swelling. These symptoms normally disappear within a day or so. However, a delayed reaction that can indicate a more sever allergy may cause fever, hives, painful joints and swollen glands. Signs and symptoms of a severe reaction include:

One major allergic reaction to an insect sting or bite is called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis interferes with breathing as histamine is released in the airways, lungs, and other vital organs. This can cause tissue to swell, can close the airways (causing breathing to stop), and can drop blood pressure to dangerously low levels. Anaphylaxis typically when an allergic person is stung 50 to 100 times, but can occur as the result of one insect sting.

Serious complications of insect bites include Lyme disease (ticks) and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Bites from mosquitoes can also significant illnesses if they transmit illness via organisms that live inside the mosquitoes. For example, malaria or West Nile virus are diseases spread by the mosquito.

Seek medical help if you are experiencing a severe allergic reaction to a sting or bite. If symptoms are severe, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. If previous insect bites have caused generalised symptoms other than at the bite site, such as a large skin reaction, with redness and swelling of over 10cms in diameter, your doctor may refer you to see a specialist at an allergy clinic.

If you notice that you or someone else are experiencing any of the symptoms of disease complication outlined above , see your doctor. The sooner that you see your doctor, then the sooner you can begin treatment. For information on how doctors diagnose what type of bite or sting you may have, and how you can start identifying insect bites continue reading the diagnosis sections that follow this section.