What bugs are biting in western Washington this summer?

Mosquito-borne illnesses are rare here, but other bugs can cause temporary pain that, fortunately, can often be managed at home

Media Contact: Barbara Clements - 253-740-5043, bac60@uw.edu

Bug bites are in the headlines this week with reports of five people contracting malaria in Florida and Texas. Thankfully, Dr. Alexa Lindley says, significant mosquito-borne illnesses, including the more common West Nile virus, are “very rare to nonexistent” in western Washington. 

Still, summer is high time for bites from mosquitosspiders, bed bugs, ticks, and even fleas.  While most will not pose serious threats, Lindley says bug bites are a common seasonal complaint at UW Medicine’s primary care clinics. She encourages people to monitor bites. “If you think you were bitten by an insect and you have redness that's really spreading, getting bigger, or if you were having fevers or chills, or if you were having abnormal looking skin ... those would all be signs to go and get medical care,” said Lindley, a family medicine doctor. 

If your bite is minor, it can typically be managed at home with over-the-counter pain medication and ice to decrease inflammation. People who have a history of strong reactions to bug bites should prepare if they will be outside for an extended time. 

“If you are a person that does tend to get bad reactions to bug bites, an antihistamine, especially the non-drowsy kind ... those are safe medicines to take ahead of time,” she said. “It might prevent an allergic reaction or an inflammatory reaction.” 

Download broadcast-ready soundbites with Lindley on bug bites.

UW Medicine