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Midge Bites

Important Note: This is not a medical site and does not offer medical advice or personal advice of any form. Always consult a doctor regarding medical matters.

Not all species of midge bite - most of the 1400 or so species of genus culicoides are relatively benign. Of the biters, the worst offender is the Highland biting midge C. impunctatus.

Why Do Midges Bite?

If you are bitten by a midge then - as with mosquitoes - it's the females who are to blame. As part of their life cycle the female midge needs to drink blood in order for her eggs to develop. And soft human flesh makes a good source for that meal, especially when exposed for easy access during the summer!

Symptoms

You're highly unlikely to receive a midge bite. The annoying beasties fly in swarms and if they take a liking to you then you'll probably end up with numerous bites on exposed areas of skin.

As with all bites and stings, some people react badly to those from midges. This can take the form of a serious allergic reaction, even anaphylaxis. If you suspect you are having such a reaction then seek medical attention and treatment immediately.

For most people midge bites are more annoying than anything else. The bloodsucking female creates a small hole in the skin which forms the centre of an inflamed red weal and a lump called a papule. In some people this is little more than a small spot - for others it can become a large blister, especially if the midge has been left to feed undisturbed for several minutes. Sunbathing in idge territory is a risky business!

The body's immune system will usually release histamine to combat the bite. This can result in anything from minor itching to severe allergic reaction. Over the counter antihistamine pills and soothing skin creams can bring relief from the symptoms. Try to avoid scratching the itch as this can cause the bite to become infected and lead to further complications.

See the NHS Choices website for more information on insect bites and symptoms.

If you exhibit serious symptoms or have any concerns then you should seek medical advice immediately.

Prevention

There's no way to reliably stop midge bites. However there are some things you can do to reduce the risk. There are various midge repellent methods and products available. These include wearing light coloured clothing and buying skin protectors such as neem oil and even Avon skin cream.

At the end of the day you can reduce the likelihood of midge bites by using these, but if you spend time on a shady Scottish waterbank in summer then expect to be bitten.