Bug bites can happen when you’re enjoying the great outdoors (or even the great indoors).

A bug bite can cause skin irritation, redness, and swelling, among other symptoms.

While bug bites can be annoying and itchy, they usually aren’t a cause for concern, and you often be treated at home.

Sometimes though, an infected bug bite can warrant calling your doctor or going to the hospital.

What causes a bug bite to become infected?

If you get a little itchy bump from a bug bite, it’s tough not to scratch it.

Unfortunately, when you itch the bump, you can break the skin allowing bacteria to enter the bite. This can lead to an infection.

How to treat an infected bug bite

If you have an infected bug bite, there are several things you can do on your own to care for it, including:

Clean the area

Use soap and water to cleanse the area gently. Make sure you clean your hand with soap and water or an alcoholic hand rub before you treat the infected bug bite.

Use ice to reduce swelling

If the bug bite is swollen, you can apply ice or a cold compress to try and reduce the swelling.

An ice pack can also help to relieve any itching that may accompany the bug bite. You can apply it for 10 minutes and then reapply as necessary.

Apply antihistamine to reduce itching

It’s common for bug bites to itch, which can feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the more you itch, the itchier you become.

To reduce and relieve some of the itching, you can try to apply an antihistamine cream or take an oral antihistamine.

Use calamine lotion for itching

You can also apply calamine lotion to reduce itching. Apply the lotion multiple times daily until your bug bites start to clear up.

Keep it covered

Apply a bandage or covering to avoid scratching and to prevent further infection of the bug bite.

Avoid hot tubs, pools, and lakes

It’s best to avoid hot tubs, pools, lakes, rivers, and oceans if you have an infected bug bite until your skin has healed. This can help to prevent bacteria from entering the skin.

Contact a doctor

If you have an infected bug bite that doesn’t start to improve within a few days, it’s time to visit your doctor or head to urgent care.

Sometimes, the bug bite may need to be treated with an antibiotic. While some over-the-counter antibiotic ointments might work for minor bug bites, a doctor can prescribe something stronger if they aren’t effective.

Seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible if you have any infected bug bite and start to experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Fever or chills
  • Body aches
  • Itchy hives covering the body
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe pain
  • Swelling in the face, mouth, or throat
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of consciousness

Avoid bug bites all together

The best way to prevent an infected bug bite is to avoid getting a bite in the first place (easier said than done)! When you’re outside, you can take some precautions, including:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents1
  • Cover up with a long sleeve shirt and pants
  • Spray clothing with permethrin (an insecticide)
  • Avoid standing water

Common services provided by urgent care centers include in-person & virtual care for ear infections, cold and flu symptoms, physical examinations, and more.


  1. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Repellents: Protection against Mosquitoes, Ticks, and Other Arthropods. Accessed February 17, 2023.

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