Bug bites: When to seek medical care

Everyone experiences bug bites from time to time. We often see various insect bites and stings at our urgent care centers. Common examples include bites from mosquitos, bees, spiders, bed bugs, and ticks. 

It can be difficult to determine the culprit, but seeking medical care is a great first step toward appropriate treatment. Not every bee sting requires a doctor’s visit, but not every pink papule can be overlooked. If you’re wondering when it makes sense to head to urgent care for bug bites, you’re in the right place.

When to seek medical attention for bites, stings, and reactions

Bug bites can range from mild to severe. Plus, one person may not experience the same reaction as someone else. That’s why it’s important to understand when a bite or sting may be treatable at home versus when to go to urgent care for bug bites. 

Signs of a severe allergic reaction

It’s not uncommon for bites to cause localized reactions on the skin. However, some people may experience a more severe allergic response, like bug bite swelling and bruising.

Any insect bite that results in hives, major swelling, difficulty breathing, nausea, and vomiting requires emergent intervention. Oftentimes, your medical provider will give you an antihistamine and a steroid to help with your immune system response. But in some instances, epinephrine is needed for serious allergic responses and this should not be delayed. 

Signs of infection

Occasionally, insect bites may become infected. Treating infections properly is important to prevent them from spreading or worsening. Signs of infection include redness, warmth, swelling, red streaking around the bite, fever, chills, drainage from the bite, or pain. 

If you have any concerns about infection or the bite is not improving, you should see your medical provider immediately, as this may require intervention such as antibiotics and close monitoring.

Necrosis (dead tissue)

Necrosis is another word for dead tissue, caused by a lack of blood flow to your tissues. This is a rare occurrence in response to bug bites or stings. However, certain bites, such as those from brown recluse spiders, can lead to necrosis. 

This isn’t something that will heal on its own. Therefore it requires immediate medical intervention. Untreated necrosis is irreversible and can ultimately require surgical removal (or amputation) of the dead tissue. Signs of necrosis include pain, swelling, blisters, fluid collections, black/brown discoloration of the skin, and sensation disturbance/numbness. These signs and symptoms are indicative that urgent care of a bug bite is absolutely needed. 

Lyme disease and tick bites

Many of you know about the classic “bulls-eye lesion” associated with Lyme disease. If you’re concerned you may have a similar rash, seek medical care as soon as possible. 

If you are concerned that you may have a tick bite or find a tick on your body, contact your medical provider immediately to determine whether treatment is necessary. Medical treatment is often required if the tick has been attached to your body for a certain length of time. 


Scabies is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei.  This rash usually has a burrowing appearance. Common body parts involved include the sides and webs of the fingers, wrists, axillae (armpits), areolas (nipples), and genitalia. Please inform your healthcare provider if you think you have scabies for further instructions.


Bedbugs are typically found on bedding and mattresses, so bites occur at night in exposed areas of skin. Bites are often hard to see as they are small and painless. The most common sites include the face, neck, hands, and arms. Make your healthcare provider aware if you think you have bed bugs and seek further instruction.

Although most insect bites are harmless, there are a few key features to watch out for. We recommend wearing insect repellent and checking for ticks after being in endemic areas. Remember to always err on the side of caution when deciding whether to seek medical care.

We're here to help: Urgent care for bug bites

Bug bites and stings can happen in any season of the year and rarely occur at convenient times. Our locations are open seven days a week and can evaluate bites, stings, and skin infections. Even if you’re unsure whether you need urgent care for bug bites, it’s always best to have it evaluated to ensure you receive the appropriate bug bite treatment.