Gnat Bites

Gnats are small flying insects that are similar to mosquitos. There are species of both biting and non-biting gnats. They do not carry infectious diseases, but their bites can cause severe swelling and irritation.

  1. Form small red lumps on the skin
  2. Can cause secondary infection from repeated scratching
  3. Mostly treated with simple cleaning and antiseptic cream

To speak to a doctor about a gnat bite reaction online, click below to book an appointment through our secure video service at a convenient time for you.

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What are gnat bites?

Gnat bites do not tend to be serious, but can cause irritation and swelling, and in rare cases lead to infection. It’s not often that a gnat bite will require specific treatment. It’s usually only when a person experiences a local reaction because they’re sensitive to bites, or the bite becomes infected, that medicine may be recommended. Usually, the recovery process can be speeded up by not scratching the bite and keeping the area clean.

The biting gnats species have six legs, two wings and are barely visible. They are most prominent in the summer. Most species of gnats do not bite humans and feed on decaying food instead; however, the flying gnats that do bite can cause painful lumps on the skin.

Biting gnats do not have the same ability as mosquitos to pierce the skin and suck blood from the host. They use cutting teeth instead to make lacerations in the skin, from which they draw blood, which the females need to lay eggs. Human skin reacts to the anticoagulant (blood thinning) agents that the gnats use to be able to suck blood, which causes the itching and swelling.

Most gnat bites will not lead to any serious conditions, as the bites will heal within a few days. However, it is possible for complications to arise from a secondary infection (for example, if someone continually scratches the bites and breaks the skin). This occurs when bacteria enters a break in the skin, and multiplies in number. The wound from the bite will form a pus-filled blister if it is infected, at which point you may need antibiotics to clear the infection.

Can gnat bites cause an allergic reaction?

Some people can have a more severe allergic reaction to insect bites. It’s rare that a gnat bite will cause anaphylaxis, but in the event that it does, you will need to administer an adrenaline pen and have emergency treatment. Anaphylactic reactions are characterised by swelling of the face or throat, hives, difficulty breathing, and a drastic drop in blood pressure. If you have been advised that you have this type of allergy and this happens, you should administer an adrenaline pen immediately and call 999. 

Local reactions caused by bites can be irritating. If you are experiencing discomfort or think your gnat bite may have become infected, you can speak to a doctor online using our video service. Book an appointment at a time most convenient for you.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020
Diagnosis and treatment

How are gnat bites identified?

Gnat bites can usually be determined by their appearance on the skin. They are small, painful and may be extremely itchy, depending on how many there are in a cluster. The bites may also develop into fluid-filled blisters, and are most likely to occur on exposed skin, particularly the head, face, neck, forearms and legs.

Will I need tests?

Tests don’t usually need to be conducted for gnat bites. However, if you experience a reaction or are developing a bacterial infection, a doctor may ask you about your medical history to find out what treatment you might need.

If you are unwell, and it’s possible you have been bitten by something else, such as a tick or a mosquito, a doctor may also want to test for conditions caused by these bites.  

What will a doctor normally advise?

In most cases, where someone has been bitten by a gnat without a serious reaction, a doctor will recommend washing the wound with soap and water before applying antiseptic, to prevent the possibility of an infection. Having done this, you can reduce the swelling with an ice pack or anti-itch creams. A doctor will also advise you not to scratch, as this may leave the wound prone to becoming infected. 

Although rare with gnat bites, you should seek medical attention immediately if you notice any signs of anaphylactic shock, such as swelling of the throat, stomach cramps, nausea and dizziness.

What treatments are there for gnat bites?

Treatments for gnat bites depend on the severity of the body’s reaction to them. In most cases, treatment won’t be required and the bites will clear up on their own. However, if a bacterial infection develops from scratching, you will need to see a doctor to be prescribed antibiotics.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020
Questions and Answers

How is a gnat bite treated?

A gnat bite is usually treated by washing the bite and the surrounding area, and using home remedies to reduce the swelling. Topical antiseptic, available over the counter, can be used to help lower the risk of infection. 

For mild reactions to gnat bites, there are anti-itch creams that can help. You should contact a doctor if you notice a pus-filled blister forming where the bite previously was, as this could indicate an infection.

What treatments are there?

Antiseptic creams or ointments can help to reduce the likelihood of an infection. For local reactions, a doctor may suggest an antihistamine to limit irritation.

If an infection is present, the antibiotic used to clear it will depend on the type of bacteria responsible.

Are there side effects?

Antiseptics can worsen a reaction in rare cases, causing the skin to become inflamed and sore. Side effects commonly associated with antihistamines include dry mouth and drowsiness. Some antibiotics may result in stomach upset and diarrhoea.

Can I consult a doctor about gnat bites online?

Yes. You can use our video consultation service if you want to speak to a doctor about gnat bites online. You may have developed a local skin reaction to a bite, or you could be showing signs of an infection, or are otherwise concerned. Use our booking service to get an appointment at a time that suits you, and our doctors will be able to provide advice via secure video link.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020

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