Spring is in the air and beware, it is the time for biting insects to descend. In some countries, being bitten can be a matter of life and death with parasitic diseases such as malaria, leishmaniasis and cutaneous myiasis being transmitted by biting insects. In the United Kingdom we are troubled by fewer biters compared with other countries and pleasingly they tend not to carry infection (with the exception of ticks which can transmit Lyme disease).
There are myriad insects which bite to feed on human blood. Other insects bite and sting as a defence mechanism such as wasps, spiders and bees. Many insects reside in the rural areas such as midges, horseflies and ticks, but it is the insects that find their way into your home which tend to cause people to visit the dermatology clinic.
Top 5 biting insects found in the home:
Bedbugs – these small black/brown insects measure up to 0.5 cm in length and live in and around beds and bedrooms. Their bites give red itchy swellings and in some patients, can swell into blisters.
Mosquitos – with the advent of global warming, mosquitos are becoming more of a problem in the UK, particularly in the Southern parts. These insect’s bites will give itchy bumps on exposed areas of skin such as ankles, arms and hands.
Fleas – many households have animals at home sharing with human occupants. Fleas usually live on the household pet and will only bite humans occasionally. Bites appear as small red itchy bumps, usually confined to the lower legs.
Lice – there are lice that like to inhabit different areas of the body i.e. head, body and pubic lice. By far the commonest are head lice, which live on children’s scalps and are easily transmitted between friends and classmates at school/nursery. Their bites are small and give rise to an itchy, flaky scalp.
Scabies – these tiny mites live under the skin of humans and are spread by skin to skin contact. They eat dead skin and leave little burrows visible on the surface as little lines. They tend to occur in the finger webs, abdomen, feet and genital regions. The host becomes allergic to the mite and develops an itchy eczema.
Pleasingly all of these symptoms and infestations can be treated by using a combination of insect repellent, professional exterminators, creams/lotions or tablets. But if you’re still struggling with insect bites, let a dermatologist examine you to confirm your diagnosis and get you the appropriate treatment.