June 22, 2018

Tick or Mosquito Bite? When to Seek Medical Care

By Steve North, MD, MPH

There are so many things we love about summertime, but nowhere on that list is the return of all the bugs. Warmer weather means that mosquitoes and ticks are back in full force. Bug bites have always been a summer nuisance, but recently there is even greater concern about diseases that can be spread by ticks and mosquitoes.

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled in the U.S. since 2004, and nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced into the U.S.

Scary, right? So, how do you know when to seek treatment if you or a loved one has been bitten by one of these insects?

Here are some tips on when to be seen by a medical professional:

  • Color – If you see significant redness on any bite, a deep purple ring around non-tick bites or redness that spreads beyond a few centimeters from the bite site.
  • Pain – If basic home treatment of ibuprofen and ice doesn’t relieve the pain, or if the pain worsens on the second or third day.
  • Swelling – If your skin shows signs of more than mild swelling at the site of the bug bite or if there is formation of blisters, hives or itching beyond the site of the bite.
  • Patterns – If you see a circle or a bullseye pattern on the bite site. A Lyme disease rash, for instance, may appear within 3-30 days, typically before the onset of fever. The Lyme disease rash is the first sign of infection and is usually a circular or “target” looking rash (seen in the photo on this page).

Red Flags

If you are experiencing abdominal pain, headache, muscle stiffness, facial swelling, difficulty breathing, change in voice quality (hoarse), dizziness or loss of consciousness, you should immediately been seen in person by a medical professional.

Additionally, if you’re ever in doubt just get it checked out.


Bug bites are one of many health concerns that can be examined and diagnosed by the Mission Virtual Clinic. To learn more or to complete an online visit today, visit Mission Virtual Clinic.

Mission Virtual Clinic – Get a response within one hour from 7 am to 11 pm. After hours, get a response between 7 to 8 am the following morning. Consultation cost is $25, payable online by any major credit card. No fee is charged if Mission is unable to diagnose and offer a treatment plan.

Steve North, MD, MPH, is the Medical Director for Mission Virtual Care.


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