Insect bites are a potentially serious problem. Insects like mosquitoes and ticks can pass on serious diseases such as malaria or Lyme disease, while other insect bites are harmless. Recognizing the type of bug bite you have will help you know when to go to a doctor and avoid the diseases and health problems that can certain serious insect bites can cause.
Pay attention to where on the body you've been bitten. The location of the bite often indicates of what type of insect bit you. For example, bites around the feet and ankles are common to fleas, while mosquitoes often bite arms, shoulders or necks in areas of exposure.
Look at the number of bites. Number of bites can also indicate the type of insect bite you have. For example, fleas will bite several areas, while a ticks or mosquitoes will bite only one or two areas.
Watch for patterns. Some insects create distinctive bite patterns, while others do not. Spider bites often occur in rows along the skin as the spider travels across the body; bedbugs will usually give two or more bites in a row. Other insects, like mosquitoes and fleas, have no specific pattern to their bites.
Consider what the bite feels like. Bites from fire ants, some spiders and stinging insects will hurt when they bite. Others, like mosquitoes and bedbugs, will go unnoticed until after the insect is gone.
Look at the reaction on the skin. The way the skin reacts will usually give an indication of the type of insect that bit. For example, a mosquito bite will result in round, raised skin.
Watch for reactions such as swelling or a bruised appearance. Spider bites, particularly in the case of poisonous spiders, can have a swollen appearance. If the skin looks bruised or starts to swell, seek medical attention. The brown recluse spider bite will have a bruised look and a black widow spider bite will often result in major swelling.
Watch for fevers. Fevers that start shortly after an insect bite are a cause for concern. Tick bites that cause a fever are often signs of either Lyme's Disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which both require medical attention as soon as possible. In the case of a mosquito bite, the concern about fevers relates to malaria.
Look for rashes. Rashes are another cause for concern in insect bites. Tick bites can cause rashes of two types: a rash that looks like a target and spreads out in rings or a rash that starts at the extremities of ankles and wrists and gradually starts spreading from the extremities. A target-shaped rash is a primary sign of Lyme's Disease; a rash on the extremities is a sign of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Seek medical attention immediately upon noticing the rash.
If you notice hives, swelling, rashes or bruises following an insect bite, see a doctor immediately.