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Bites - Causes, Treatment and When To Be Concerned

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

Bites - When To Worry, When To Self Treat, When To Get Medical Help

Being bitten can be incredibly annoying, but depending on what is eating you, it is possible to become quite ill and no one wants to feel unwell on holiday. Thankfully there are a multitude of simple precautions you can take to deter the pesky beasts and varying treatments you can use if its too late to avoid them.

All About Bites
All About Bites


Depending where you are travelling will be a huge factor in the pests that you will be at risk from and the diseases they spread. When I think about being bitten whilst travelling, the first thing that comes to mind is being devoured by mosquitoes whilst sleeping. Not only are they incredibly annoying, they can spread some pretty horrendous diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and zika virus. I have often wondering why one person can be left untouched by these insects whilst the person next to them wakes up looking like they’ve caught the measles. Apparently, one of the reasons for this is that people give off different odours, and some people do not smell as attractive to mosquitoes as other people, or their odour actually masks them and makes them harder to find. Interesting fact, it is only the female mosquitoes that bite and it is in fact their saliva and the histamine we produce in reaction to it, which causes the irritation, itching and swelling we are familiar with after being bitten. Mosquitoes are actually attracted to the lactic acid and CO2 we breath out and your blood type can be a factor also with people having blood type O being a higher risk. Other risk factors for attracting mosquitoes can be; sweating, being obese, movement whilst sleeping, or having old sweat on your body. So you could fatten up your partner, get them running every night, pinch them during the night and break your shower to avoid getting bitten, or you could use some of the following tips:

1. Mosquitoes are most active during the early morning and evening, so avoid being out during these times.

2. Mosquitoes breed in fresh still water, so empty any water from buckets, containers etc that may be outside.

3. Mosquito nets

4. Wear loose clothing which keeps you covered, they find it harder to bite through loose clothing than skin tight leggings and tops.

5. Wear clothes that are light in colour.

6. Keep doors and windows closed.

7. Breezy areas or a fan blowing on your whilst you sleep, will help to blow them away.

8. Apply DEET to the skin, mosquitoes do not like this smell (try to avoid inhaling it)

9. Shower before you go to bed and try to stay cool to avoid smelling of sweat. If you can, pay a bit more for a room with air conditioning.

10. Repellents such as candles, sprays, plug-ins, incense sticks, body wash and sun-creams are available to buy from health food stores.

All About Bites
All About Bites


Often found in areas with farm animals/wildlife and deep shrubbery. These vile parasites perch on a long piece of foliage waiting for some poor unsuspecting victim, whether human or animal, to brush past and pick them up which is when they take the opportunity to bite and feed on your blood. Most people think of Lyme disease when they think about the dangers of tick bites, but they can also spread many other diseases too. Ticks can stay attached and feeding for several days, often hiding in a soft and inconspicuous area of skin and their saliva contains immunosuppressants preventing the itching and irritation present with other insect bites, making them difficult to detect. Steps can be taken to avoid ticks:

1. Hiking? Wear long trousers and tuck them into your socks. Wear long sleeved tops. Light coloured clothing will make ticks easier to spot.

2. DEET on your skin or clothes is the best insect repellent, perfect if trying to avoid mosquitoes also

3. Stick to paths if possible

4. Examine pets, clothes and equipment before bringing them inside.

Just found a tick on your body and wondering what to do? Using a tick remover tool, or a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, grab the tick as close to your skin as possible and pull away from the skin. Try not to squeeze/crush/twist the tick, at least until its out of your body. Then clean the bite with antiseptic. Do not try any alternative means of removing a tick.

When to be concerned after removing a tick.

1. Signs of infection to the skin where the tick bit you.

2. A circular shaped rash at the bite sight, similar to a bullseye. Usually appearing between 1 to 4 weeks after being bitten, but possibly as long as 3 months afterwards.

3. Flu-like symptoms such as a high temperature, feeling hot/cold shivery, headache, body aches, excessive tiredness.

All About Bites

All About Bites
All About Bites

Bed bugs

Always a possibility when on holiday as people can bring them from their own home on their clothes or even luggage. The presence of beg bugs is normally not down to the cleanliness of the establishment but the frequency of different people sleeping in the same bed is what makes finding these pests abroad likely.

Bed bugs are tiny and can look like small black dots but are sometimes even invisible to the naked eye and they breed at a terrifying rate. Bed bugs shed as they grow, much like snakes and it is sometimes possible to identify bed bugs by the presence of their shedded exoskeleton or the rusty looking blood stains they can deposit on the bed-sheets. They are very good at hiding in small tiny spaces and can be incredibly irritating and uncomfortable.

Bed bugs can cause small, itching, red bumps typically across the hands, arms, neck and face which often appear in straight lines but it is possible for it to take two weeks for any bites to show. If you think you may be getting attacked by bed bugs while you sleep, request to change rooms (if possible). They can be killed by using pesticides, bug bombs or washing everything on a high heat and tumble drying afterwards (also on high) but it may be simpler to throw away the offending bedding and mattress completely. You will need to shower and wash any clothing that has been in contact with the bed on a high heat before going to the new room. Don’t forget to shower yourself also.

Thankfully, bed bugs do not spread diseases, but it is possible to get a skin infection around the sites of bites, usually due to scratching the itchy area and breaking the skin further.

Horsefly bites

Found worldwide by fresh and salt water marshes, streams and generally any damp area.

Not venomous nor a transmitter of diseases like mosquitos and ticks, but nevertheless they can transmit the bot fly larvae. It is possible to be cut open by a horsefly (they slice rather than bite) and then be gnawed on by a maggot - feeling sick? Me too!!

These buggers can really hurt and will nearly always cause a red, raised mark which can be itchy as hell. It is also possible to experience a large hive type rash (urticaria) and feel dizzy and weak. Seek medical advice if you feel unwell due to horsefly bites, particularly if breathing is effected and/or you have swelling around the face/mouth.

All About Bites
All About Bites

Spider bites

When considering biting spiders, I think people naturally think of Australia, but biting spiders, venomous or otherwise can be found worldwide. I was once bitten in the garden due to a spider in my gardening glove and my hand swelled to the side of tennis ball. Even Spain is said to have the well known Black Widow Spider and others such as the Recluse Spider which caused a man to have a couple fingers amputated after being bitten whilst on holiday in Ibiza.

Symptoms of a spider bite:

1. Redness/swelling/rash/itching

2. Pain to area of bite

3. Blisters

4. Muscle pain or cramping

5. Headache

6. Nausea and vomiting

7. Fever, chills, shortness of breath

If you are bitten by a spider and you feel unwell, a photo of the offending critter may help the treating doctor - just don’t risk getting bitten again. What to do when bitten by a spider:

1. Wash the area with soapy water

2. Apply antibiotic cream

3. Elevate the area to reduce swelling

4. Cool the area

5. Pain killers

6. Monitor bite in case of worsening symptoms

7. If you feel unwell - seek further medical assistance.

All About Bites
All About Bites


Famously known for spreading the plague, many people are not aware that there are still areas in the world where this disease rears its ugly head such as Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Peru. Typically carried on rats and transmitted to humans through animal contact. It is also possible to catch the Plague via unprotected contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person and through inhaling respiratory droplets.

There are two types of the Plague, bubonic and pneumonic. It is the bubonic type that causes the well known swelling to lymph nodes and the appearance of buboes. It causes septicaemia when left untreated but can be cured with antibiotics if caught early.

Unfortunately, the early symptoms of the Plague are similar to the flu; high temperature, aching body, weakness, nausea and vomiting. Do your research before travelling to any of the areas currently suffering from outbreaks. Stay away from animals and seek medical help immediately if you become unwell. Further information and advice can be had from WHO online.


Flying and red ants in the UK can deliver a pretty nasty bite. Some ants abroad will bite and sting in a particularly nasty combination which can cause severe irritation and even an allergic reaction. There are many different species of ants which can be found worldwide; fire ants, acrobat ants and crazy ants to name a few.

Soothing bites

I am sure just reading the above will make you itch, even without being bitten. Perhaps you are you already scratching yourself lying in bed unable to sleep or even contemplating just chopping of the most effected limb? I guess it won’t help if I tell you that scratching will actually make it worse and put you at risk of infection also? Don’t despair, relief can be found, particularly if you were sensible enough to be prepared. Please read all labels correctly and take care particularly if giving to children or you have any allergies, other medical conditions or are pregnant/breastfeeding;

1. It is very normal for a bitten area to become red, hot and swollen due to the histamine response. Antihistamines can help immensely. Chlorphenamine (Piriton) can be taken regularly throughout the day every 4-6 hours but can cause drowsiness amongst other possible side effects, so be careful if driving particularly. Other once daily antihistamines are available such as cetirizine and loratadine and these can be taken on the same day as Chlorphenamine. Further information on antihistamines can be had from the NHS website.

2. Cool baths/showers

3. Cold compress

4. Calamine cream

5. Hydrocortisone cream

6. Aloe Vera

7. Various other herbal/alternative methods can be found online, but I can’t say I have ever tried them.

Seek further medical advice if you have any signs of infection such as red track marks spreading out from the bitten area, pus, pain, swollen glands, flu like symptoms, wheezing, difficulty breathing, swelling to face or mouth area, fast heart rate, dizziness, vomiting or fainting.

There are, of course, many other types of insects that may bite you when on holiday, but these are the most common.

A mosquito landed on my balls..

Hardest decision of my life!!

If you have found this article helpful, I would love to hear about it, drop a comment below. Please feel free to share the wisdom!

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