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JAMA Patient Page
July 3, 2013

Insect Bites and Stings

JAMA. 2013;310(1):110. doi:10.1001/2012.jama.10800

Insects, including mosquitoes, lice, ticks, fleas, bees, wasps, and bedbugs, live all over the world. They can be found in cities and rural areas; outdoors or inside any type of home, dwelling, or shelter; and in both developed countries and the developing world.

Because insects live everywhere, insect bites and stings are very common. Insect bites and stings can be very painful, can cause blisters or necrosis (tissue death), and can cause allergic reactions.

Insects carry diseases on their bodies, in their blood, in their saliva, or in their venom. When an insect bites an animal or a human, those diseases can be transmitted (passed on from the insect). Sometimes the organisms that cause a disease (bacteria, viruses, or parasites) stay in the animal or human without causing that disease. That type of infected animal or human is called a host. Usually, insect bites infect a person or an animal and produce the symptoms of a disease. Insect bites are responsible for causing many types of diseases and therefore lead to illness and death for millions of people worldwide.