Are horsefly bites dangerous? The 5 signs you’ve been bitten

This Morning: Dr Ranj discusses horsefly bites

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Horseflies are everywhere at the moment, even after the heatwave cooled down. These tiny flying insects have sharp teeth and their bite can be pretty painful. But how do you know if you’ve been bitten by a horsefly specifically, and are horsefly bites dangerous? reveals everything you need to know.

Horseflies are pretty big for a fly – they’re about 1cm to 2.5cm in size.

They’re dark in colour, but their upper parts are normally white with some vertical black lines.

This creature loves to be out in the day when it’s humid and they can be found near water, woodlands, grassy areas, and rural farming areas or stables.

To survive, the female horsefly feeds off large animals, such as humans.

They can drink up to 200mg of blood in just a few minutes and release a substance that actually stops the blood from clotting to speed up the process for them.

The horsefly has sharp teeth that cut the skin like scissors, so you’ll know you’ve been bitten even if you don’t see it with your own eyes because the bites are painful and sting straight away.

The 9 signs you’ve been bitten

You might not be able to identify what kind of fly has bitten you just from looking at the bite.

To help narrow it down, the NHS site explains that a bite from a horsefly can be very painful and the bitten area of skin will usually be red and raised.

You may also experience:

  • a larger red, raised rash (called hives or urticaria)
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • wheezing
  • part of your body becoming puffy and swollen

Are horsefly bites dangerous?

Horsefly bites can be dangerous if they get infected or someone has an allergic reaction.

Horsefly bites can take a while to heal and can become infected and cause nasty symptoms.

The NHS site instructs everyone to see their GP if they have symptoms of an infection, such as pus or increasing pain, redness and swelling.

A more severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, is rare but possible and is an emergency.

You should call for an ambulance at any sign of anaphylaxis, including the following symptoms:

  • tongue and throat swelling
  • swollen face, lips, hands, or feet away from the site of the bite
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea
  • feeling very unwell
  • difficulty swallowing or breathing

People who experience a severe allergy to horseflies will usually have had a horsefly bite in the past and the reaction happens because the immune system has adapted to protect them against any further instances but is oversensitive to future bites.

People who have severe allergies may need to carry an emergency epinephrine injection for the treatment of future bite reactions.

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