“Mumma, I slayed a monster who attacked me!!” my pint-sized nephew who was about three, said to my cousin with importance. He showed me a pesky mosquito whose remains were now on his forearm. But the poor child had not escaped unscathed. He had an itchy, red hive as a proof of his encounter.

A calamine lotion applied seemed to soothe his itching and reduce the swelling. I must say that I was glad he got off lightly though. I know of another child who when bitten, wasn’t as lucky and had to receive urgent medical care. Children are more likely targets for insect bites since they are outdoors more than adults and their immune system may not be as well developed.

The most likely insects that you may find (though not limited to) in India include:

  • Bedbugs
  • Fleas
  • Flies
  • Gnats
  • Mosquitoes

When your dear one has suffered an insect bite, to be able to deal with it, you need to be aware of possible symptoms and effective pain relief. Let’s look at some possible bites and associated dangers of these before we move on to likely treatments.


A bite from insects like gnats and mosquitoes generally causes a small, itchy lump that disappears in a few days in most people though it can have a more serious effect on another.

Mosquito bites can in some cases transfer serious diseases, such as malaria, Zika and dengue fever.

The recent spate of dengue fever in India has brought this danger to the fore.


A flea bite typically leads to a wheal that normally peaks in the first half hour, and then becomes a hardened lesion within 12 to 24 hours. Sensitive people may find that the area will itch for a week or more. Fleas can in rare cases transmit diseases such as plague.


Bedbug bites do not generally cause a reaction, but sensitive individuals may develop wheals which can be itchy.


House flies bites are not painful but the danger looms from their being one of the major carrier of infectious diseases.

What increases the risk of insect bites?

The likelihood of receiving an insect bite depends on the environmental conditions.

Common sources of flea bites include pets or birds' nests and crowded communities with low hygiene standards.

Bedbugs can be found in old unused property and upholstery. They commonly occur in low-income rental properties and hotels due to lack of general hygiene/cleanliness.

Marshy water or drainage areas and gutters can be breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Flies can be generally found near uncovered food or drinks.

Outdoor traveling/camping can also increase the risk of insect bites.

Diagnosis and treatment of insect bites

Insect bites are normally easy to diagnose from the appearance and symptoms like pain/itching/redness of the bitten area.

A mild reaction normally passes within a few days. Ice pack on the affected area, oral painkillers, an anti-itch lotion/anti-itch erasers, or anesthetic cream may soothe if there’s more discomfort.

When to seek medical help?

People who have severe reactions which do not seem to subside after trying the above immediate pain relief treatments should go to the nearest hospital's emergency department after a bite or sting to seek advice from a medical practitioner. He/she will probably prescribe oral antihistamines or analgesic.

After a bite, seek medical help immediately if you or your close ones have any of the following symptoms:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chestpain or tightness
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Sensation of the throat closing
  • Faintness or weakness
  • Severe itching or swelling
  • Nausea
  • Fever

Insect bites can be painful and/or irritating but following the above advice, you can deal with those. Be safe, people and keep your near and dear ones safe as well. Read part 2 of this article to know how to completely prevent these harmful insect bites.

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Madhavi Ochani

Madhavi Ochani (nee Chandanapurkar) is the mother of a ten-ager(currently 10 but already going on 18) and relishes the challenge with gusto. An engineer by profession, she’s worked with some top IT MNC’s for a decade and a half before taking an early retirement from working outside the home. A huge fan of laugh riots like P. G. Wodehouse, F.R.I.E.N.D.S and SEINFELD, she tries to find humour in everyday life situations. Her current success rate with applying that to parenting situations though is about ….well 42 % (engineer speak for PASS). A better score expected this year with private parenting coaching from the infallible son. Wish her luck!

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