How To Treat Insect Bites, As NHS Helpline Reports Spike In Calls

Natasha Hinde

The number of people calling the NHS non-emergency helpline over insect bites doubled in the space of a week, data has revealed.

Approximately 7,000 people called NHS 111 regarding insect bites between 2-8 July, Public Health England confirmed to HuffPost UK, which was a 50% increase in calls over seven days. There were also reports of people going to hospital with infected horsefly bites.

In light of this, and with insects continuing to thrive during the summer months, we spoke to dermatologists about how is best to treat horsefly and mosquito bites, and prevent nasty infections.

Stock image.

Horsefly bites

These bites can be very painful. The area of skin that’s bitten will usually turn red and raised. It might also cause a large, red raised rash, dizziness, weakness, wheezing or swelling, according to the NHS. 

This particular bite can be treated with over-the-counter medicines such as non-sedating anti-histamines (used for hay fever) and hydrocortisone cream, explains Dr Anton Alexandroff, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson. (You can also treat house spider bites with these.)

The bites can become infected, so if the pain, redness and swelling increases or if it starts to ooze pus, make an appointment to see your GP.


Mosquito bites

If you have a particular blood type, you might be more attractive to hungry mosquitoes as studies have found they prefer those with Type O blood.

Mosquito bites usually cause an itchy lump to appear on the skin and occasionally, small blisters may develop. There are a number of things that can be done to minimise discomfort, explains consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson Dr Anjali Mahto. She recommends taking oral antihistamines to relieve the itching and swelling. Applying mild steroid cream to the area might also help to reduce inflammation and itching. Other treatment options include applying calamine lotion to affected areas and cooling the skin with a cold compress.

“The bites should usually settle within a few hours to a few days,” she says. “It is important to avoid scratching the skin as this increases vulnerability to developing infection at the site of the bite.”

Like with horsefly bites, if you notice pus or discharge in or around the bite; increased pain, redness or swelling; or swollen glands, then it might have become infected so you should contact your doctor.