Most insect bites disappear after a few days and can be treated with an itching cream from the drugstore.

Some people have allergic reactions to insect bites. If the insect bite is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, see a doctor immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the lips, eyelids or throat
  • Dizziness, faintness or confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hives
  • Nausea, cramps or vomiting

The most serious complication from an insect bite is infection caused when scratching introduces bacteria into the skin. Children are especially vulnerable to infections like impetigo because their skin is sensitive, and they are likely to scratch itchy bites with dirty fingernails.  See a doctor if the following symptoms appear:

  • Increased redness and swelling around the bite
  • Pimples around the bite area or a crusty discharge
  • A swollen lymph node near the bite
  • The bite develops into an open sore.

We at Urgent Family Care in Knoxville and Sevierville, Tennessee are here to help.

See below for information on identifying insect bites and giving first aid for insect bites:

  • Bed Bug Bites
  • Bee Stings
  • Wasp, Hornet, and Yellow Jacket Stings
  • Fire Ant Bites
  • Lice
  • No See Um Bites
  • Spider Bites
  • Tick Bites


Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs are flat, reddish-brown bugs varying from the size of an apple seed to a small fingernail. They are common in developing countries and are increasingly appearing in U.S. hotels and other places where numbers of people gather. They hide in cracks and crevices in walls and furniture, and come out at night to bite you while you sleep.

Bed bug bites do not itch at first, but later they develop into red welts, often in a circle or a straight line. The itching can last for longer than a week and be very uncomfortable. Bed bug bites do not usually require medical treatment. The itching can be relieved with over-the-counter itching creams or Absorbine Jr.

Bed bugs do not transmit disease, but they are very sneaky and can hitch a ride into your home in a suitcase, box, or on a pet.  An infestation is difficult to get rid of. When you check into a hotel, lift the sheets and check the seams of the mattresses for traces of bedbugs before you unpack your bags!

Learn more about bedbugs.


Bee Stings

Bees often leave a stinger, a small sack full of venom, attached to the skin.

  • Remove the stinger by scraping with a fingernail or grasping it with tweezers close to the skin. Try not to squeeze the sack because it will inject more venom into the skin.
  • If the sting is on the hand or fingers, quickly remove rings and jewelry before the swelling starts.
  • Ice the area, and if the sting is on an arm or leg, elevate it. Apply a paste of baking soda or an itching cream.

The sting will be swollen and itchy for 2-5 days. Use itching cream and an over-the counter pain reliever if needed. Call a doctor if you have any concerns.

Anyone with more than a few bee stings, symptoms of an allergic reaction, or a previous allergy to bee stings needs immediate medical attention.

Learn more about first aid for bee stings.


Hornet, Yellow Jacket, and Wasp Stings

The venom in a wasp sting is an acid. You can reduce the effect of a sting by quickly applying a small amount of ammonia or a paste of baking soda and water on the sting.

The sting will be swollen and itchy for 2-5 days. Use itching cream and an over-the counter pain reliever if needed. Call a doctor if you have any concerns, or if you experience symptoms of shock..

Anyone with more than a few stings, symptoms of an allergic reaction, or a previous allergy to bee stings needs immediate medical attention.


Fire Ant Bites

Fire ants are common in Tennessee in the spring. A fire ant bite stings like a match, and you may get several bites before you realize you are standing or digging in an ant nest. Fire ant bites develop into itching blisters that clear up by themselves after a few days. Ice packs and itching cream give relief from the itching. Avoid scratching or opening the blisters, which could lead to infection.

A few people experience allergic reactions to fire ant bites. See a doctor if you experience shortness of breath or symptoms of shock.



Lice are tiny insect parasites spread by human contact or contact with infested clothing or furniture.  A tickling sensation or red rash on the scalp or behind the ears could be caused by lice. Lice infestations are easily confused with other skin conditions. To diagnose a lice infestation, use a fine-toothed comb and magnifying glass to find a live louse on the scalp, or tiny white nits attached to the hair less than 1/4 inch from the scalp.

Other types of lice can be found on the body, or in the pubic hair.

Over-the-counter-and prescription treatments for lice are available. If you suspect lice but cannot find evidence of an infestation, see your doctor.

Learn more about lice.


No See Um Bites

No see ums, or biting midges, are so small you can barely see them, but their bites are painful and can itch for days. You will usually receive multiple no see um bites at one time, and you will feel them right away. No see um bites look like tiny red hives spread over the exposed area of skin.

No see um bites can be very uncomfortable. Use a strong itching cream, and take an oral pain reliever if needed. You can get temporary relief by applying an ice pack or cold towel to the bite area.

No see ums are most active at dusk and in the early morning. They are found on beaches and in woods and  forests, anywhere where there is moisture and fertile soil. An insect repellant with DEET is effective protection against no see um bites.


Spider Bites

Most spider bites cause only minimal discomfort. Wash the area, apply cool compresses, and elevate if the bite is on an arm or leg. Use an over-the counter pain reliever or antihistamine to relieve swelling and pain.

See a doctor if:

  • The bite is accompanied by symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, and severe pain.
  • A growing ulcer develops at the site of the spider bite.
  • You think the bite might be from a poisonous spider.

Try to identify the spider. There are two venomous spiders in the US whose bites require medical attention:

  • Black widow (Red hourglass marking on the belly): The bite may feel like a pinprick at first, with two tiny red marks. Later the victim develops severe pain and stiffness, abdominal cramps, and excessive sweating.
  • Brown recluse (Violin-shaped marking on the back): The bite stings mildly at first, with redness and intense pain within 8 hours. A deep blue and purple area develops around the bite, and may turn into a spreading blister. Prompt treatment can reduce tissue damage.

Identify black widow and brown recluse spider bites.

Immediate treatment for tick bites, lice, bee and wasp stings, spider bites, and bedbug bites is available at Urgent Family Care in Knoxville and Sevierville, TN.

Please come in if you have any concerns, or if you or your child experiences an allergic reaction or intense discomfort after an insect bite.


Tick Bites

Ticks are small 8-legged creatures that burrow into the skin and feed on blood. Ticks often attach themselves to pets and humans. Ticks are common in the Tennessee outdoors. If you have been hiking, playing, or working in the woods, garden, or leaf piles, take a shower and do a tick check for any ticks that might be on your body. Ticks should be removed right away.

To remove a tick:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Using tweezers, grasp the tick firmly as close to the skin as possible and gently pull it out. Do not twist or tug. Do not attempt to remove a tick using petroleum jelly or a hot match, as this could cause the tick to inject more fluids into your bloodstream.
  • Wash the area with soap and water, and dab on some antibiotic cream.

If the tick’s head breaks off in the skin, or if you do not want to remove it yourself, see a doctor.

A tick bite is usually a single bite somewhere on a tender part of the body. Once the tick has been removed, redness quickly disappears.

Most tick bites are harmless. Some ticks transmit diseases such as Lyme disease or STARI. Consult a doctor if you experience a circular rash around a tick bite, or flu like symptoms such as fever, nausea or muscle aches, within a month after the tick bite or if you live in an area where these diseases are common.

Learn more about first aid for tick bites and illnesses caused by ticks.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is not intended to replace the advice of a physician. It is information that is generally available. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.