Insect Bites and Stings Increase 3x This Summer

Visits to the NHS website’s insect bites and stings page have tripled this summer. Analysis by NHS England, which runs the website, found monthly visits to the insect bites and stings page reached 261,364 in June 2023 – triple those seen in June 2022 when there were 86,984 visits, and more than double the number in June 2021 with 102,934.

The biggest spike was from 12 to 18 June 2023 when there were 91,630 weekly visits to the page – equivalent to one view every seven seconds.

Insect bites or stings are not usually serious and get better after a few days, but they can cause infection or serious allergic reaction.

Dame Ruth May, NHS England’s chief nursing officer, said: “We often see a rise in insect bites and stings during the summer months, but the number of people seeking advice from the NHS website has really spiked this year, suggesting there has been a significant increase.

“The website is available 24 hours a day offering advice on a range of conditions including bites and stings. It provides tips on easing swelling and itching, as well as helping people identify more serious symptoms needing urgent medical attention.”


The insect bites and stings page details how to relieve symptoms including bringing down swelling using ice packs or reducing itching with antihistamines, as well as pain relief – all of which are available from a pharmacist.

It also offers advice on how to identify different bites and stings, as well as tips on removing stingers and ticks.

The page provides a list of warning signs to watch out for in case of emergency including a skin rash, difficulty breathing, wheezing and a swollen tongue or face, and urges people with those symptoms to call 999.

The website is the UK’s biggest health website with an estimated 2.6 million visits a day in 2022 from people seeking information and advice.

It includes over 4,000 pages and provides information about 990 medical conditions as well other health services including applying for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card for healthcare cover abroad, finding a GP, and a pregnancy due date calculator.

Insect bites or stings are not usually serious and get better in a few days. But sometimes they can become infected or cause a serious allergic reaction.

Bites from some insects can also cause illnesses, such as Lyme disease from ticks, scabies from mites, and malaria from mosquitoes in certain parts of the world.

Check if it’s an insect bite or sting

The main symptoms of an insect bite or sting are:

  • Pain where you were bitten or stung
  • A small, swollen lump on the skin

The lump may look red. It may be more difficult to see on black or brown skin, but you should be able to feel it.

A bee sting shown on white skin. There's a very small red mark on the skin and the area around it is slightly raised.
There may be a mark on your skin where you were bitten or stung.
Mosquito bites shown on brown skin. There are several small raised bumps, which are the same colour as the skin.
You may have a mild allergic reaction, where the skin becomes itchy and raised around the bite or sting.

If you’re not sure it’s an insect bite or sting

What to do if you’ve been bitten or stung by an insect

You can often treat an insect bite or sting without seeing a GP.

Removing stingers, ticks or caterpillars

If anything is left on or in your skin, the first thing you need to do is remove it carefully.

Easing your symptoms

If there’s nothing in your skin, or you’ve removed it, wash your skin with soap and water to help lower the chance of infection.

The bite or sting should get better in a few days. There are some things you can do to ease your symptoms.


  • Put an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or a clean cloth soaked in cold water on the bite or sting for at least 20 minutes, if it’s swollen
  • Keep the area raised if you can
  • Take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if the sting is painful
  • Use antihistamines to relieve any itching (but do not use antihistamine cream if you had caterpillar hairs on your skin)
  • Use a hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching and swelling


  • Do not scratch the bite or sting, as it could get infected
  • Do not use home remedies such as bicarbonate of soda to treat the bite or sting

A pharmacist can help with insect bites and stings

A pharmacist can advise you about medicines that can help ease the symptoms of a bite or sting, such as:

  • Antihistamines
  • Steroid creams
  • Painkillers

Find a pharmacy

Urgent advice:Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

You’ve been bitten or stung by an insect and:

  • Your symptoms get worse or are not getting any better
  • You were stung in your mouth or throat, or near your eyes
  • You have stomach pain and are being sick
  • You feel dizzy or lightheaded
  • A large area around the bite or sting becomes red and swollen
  • You have a high temperature and swollen glands
  • You were stung more than once
  • You’ve had a serious allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting before

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Immediate action required:Call 999 if:

You were bitten or stung and:

  • You get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • You’re wheezing
  • You get tightness in the chest or throat
  • You have trouble breathing or talking
  • Your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.

See also: Experts Predict Increase in Serious Illness

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