Almost everyone has been stung or bitten by an insect at one time or another. Besides being annoying pests, some insects can carry dangerous diseases such as malaria and yellow fever in certain parts of the world. Others, such as honeybees, can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis in those sensitive to their venom.

Mosquito bites

In parts of the third world, malaria (which is transmitted through mosquito bites) causes as many as 3 million deaths a year. If you plan to travel to an area where malaria is prevalent, see your doctor to insure that you are properly protected before you travel. In North America such problems are limited; however, there have been several encephalitis scares in Florida, and West Nile virus is a concern even in parts of Canada. It should be noted that mosquitoes have not been known to transmit HIV, as the virus neither survives nor replicates itself in mosquitoes.

Black fly bites

Black flies will crawl into hair and under clothing often biting in inaccessible places such as the ankles and beltline. All exposed parts of the body are open to attack, though they tend to favour the head, just below the hat rim. Black flies are not known to transmit diseases to humans.

Bees, wasps, and hornets

Stinging insects such as bees, wasps, and hornets will sting in self-defense while foraging or to protect their nests. The stinger is a modified egg-laying apparatus, so only females can sting. Stingers are effective weapons because they deliver venom that causes pain when injected into the skin. The result is a very painful sensation, which begins as a sharp pain that lasts a few minutes and then becomes a dull ache.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team