A close encounter with an insect can leave you with a red itchy bite on your skin. Although itchy insect bites are usually not dangerous, they can make you uncomfortable for a few days. If home treatment doesn’t relieve your symptoms, your doctor can prescribe medication to reduce your itching.
Mosquitoes and Fleas
Itchy bites on the skin can occur after an insect ingests a small amount of your blood after biting you. When a female mosquito bites you, she deposits some of her saliva into your skin, according to MayoClinic.com. A red bump and itching occurs because your immune system reacts to the proteins in the saliva.
Flea bites aren’t just a problem for cats and dogs. The bloodsucking insects can also bite humans. Fleas usually bite humans around the ankles, knees, waist, armpits and elbows, although the resulting itchy rash can spread to other areas of the skin.
If red itchy bites form on your skin during or after a trip, bedbugs may be to blame. Bedbugs are small, flat, brown insects that lurk in the cracks of upholstered furniture, mattresses, bed frames, curtains, dresser drawers and carpeting. Travelers can unknowingly transport bedbugs in their luggage, making hotels a prime spot to get bedbug bites. The U.S. Department of Environmental Protection reports that bedbugs feed on blood every five to 10 days, but can live up to one year without feeding.
Red itchy bites can also occur if you have scabies, microscopic mites that are spread by close contact with an infested person. Mites are so small that they are difficult to see, but they can cause intense itching when they burrow into your skin. If you have scabies, you may notice itching before you actually see the red pimple-like bites on your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that scabies is common in those who have close physical contact with others, such as children, mothers of young children, sexually active young adults and elderly people in nursing homes.
Hydrocortisone cream or ointment, calamine lotion and oatmeal baths can help relieve itching caused by insect bites. If these treatments don’t help, over-the-counter oral antihistamines may be needed. Antihistamines prevent allergens from causing symptoms. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications if over-the-counter medications are ineffective.
Doctors prescribe permethrin or lindane cream or lotion to treat scabies. The medication remains on the skin overnight and is washed off in the morning. You may need to repeat the treatment one week after the initial cream application. If bedbugs, fleas or scabies are the source of your bites, it is important to wash bedding, clothing and stuffed animals to remove the insects or mites. It may also be necessary to treat your home with pesticides to prevent a reinfestation.
It’s virtually impossible not to scratch when an insect bite causes intense itching, but scratching could make your problem even worse. Scratching a bite can lead to a bacterial infection or cellulitis, an infection of the deep skin and tissues of the body.