All you need to know about gnat bites

Everything you need to know about insect bites. Picture: PA PHOTO/THINKSTOCKPHOTOS.

Everything you need to know about insect bites. Picture: PA PHOTO/THINKSTOCKPHOTOS. - Credit: PA

Find out when you need to seek medical attention, what to do when you have been bitten and why some are prone to bites more than others.

With summer in full swing many of you will have fallen a victim to irritating itchy gnat bites - here is a guide to tell you everything you need to know about them. Dr Gary Howsman, who is the East of England spokesperson for the Royal College of GP’s, has answered our key questions about gnat bites.

What to do when you have been bitten

When you have been bitten the bite will display itself as a small red lump on the surface of the skin.

Dr Gary Howsman, East of England spokesperson for the Royal College of GP’s said: “Symptoms can be relieved with basic self-care measures, such as ice packs and soothing creams, and rarely need the intervention of a GP.”

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When you need to seek medical advice

Dr Howsman explained that gnat bites rarely need medical attention however it is important to know what to look out for incase the occasion arises.

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He said: “If the symptoms of the bite don’t start to improve within a few days, if the patient has been stung in their mouth or throat, or if symptoms of infection develop, like pus or increasing pain, then patients should seek advice from a healthcare professional.

“It is unusual for someone to be allergic to gnat bites, specifically, but anyone who finds themselves struggling to breathe, or feeling faint or sick after being bitten should seek urgent medical help.”

The NHS have provided these guidelines so you know who you need to call according to your symptoms.

Call 111 or your GP if:

• You’ve been stung or bitten in your mouth or throat, or near your eyes

• A large area (around 10cm or more) around the bite becomes red and swollen

• You have symptoms of a wound infection, such as pus or increasing pain, swelling or redness

• You’re worried about a bite or sting

• Your symptoms don’t start to improve within a few days or are getting worse

• You have symptoms of a more widespread infection, such as a fever, swollen glands and other flu-like symptoms

Call 999 for an ambulance immediately if:

• Nausea or vomiting

• Wheezing or difficulty breathing

• A fast heart rate

• Difficulty swallowing

• A swollen face, mouth or throat

• Dizziness or feeling faint

• Loss of consciousness

Emergency treatment in hospital is needed in these cases.

How do you prevent being bitten

There are ways to prevent those pesky bites which spoil summer evenings.

Dr Howsman reveals: “Patients can take simple measures to stop themselves from being bitten, such as covering exposed skin with long sleeves and trousers, being careful around flowering plants and stagnant water, and using insect repellent sprays.”

Products with strong perfumes also attract insects so avoid using potent smelling soaps, shampoos and deodorants.

Can gnat bites lead to sepsis?

It is rare but yes it can.

Dr Gary Howsam, said: “Any puncture wound to the skin – including insect bites - can sometimes become infected and, in very rare cases, lead to sepsis. Sepsis is an incredibly serious condition, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms, which can include severe breathlessness, nausea and vomiting, and passing water less often than usual. In children, this is also often accompanied by a high temperature and their limbs looking ‘floppy’. Anyone who has an infected wound or bite mark and is concerned about their symptoms, particularly their breathing, should seek immediate medical help.”

• Read more: Concern as sepsis death rates rise dramatically

Why some people get bitten and others don’t

It isn’t clear why some people are prone to getting gnat bites than others. However, according to research on TIME your blood group could have something to do with it. Apparently those with blood type O attracts insects more than any other blood type. Pregnant woman and those who are overweight tend to have a higher metabolic rate (HMR) resulting in them also being more likely to get bitten, this is because gnats and mosquitoes use CO2 to identify bite targets and those with a HMR produce more CO2. Drinking alcohol and exercising also raises the metabolic rate meaning bites are more likely to happen during these activities.

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