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Negative Reaction to a Horsefly Bite: My Recovery Experience

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Whilst holidaying in Wales, I felt a pain in my right upper arm that resembled a needle being stuck into my skin. This is my experience.

Horsefly bites are painful and can take many days (even weeks) to heal fully.

Horsefly bites are painful and can take many days (even weeks) to heal fully.

Was It a Bee or a Horsefly?

Whilst holidaying in Wales, my family and I visited Zip World at Penrhyn Quarry. As I watched several people speed overhead on the zip lines, I suddenly felt a pain in my right upper arm. It felt like a needle had been stuck into my skin and then removed a fraction of a second later.

I immediately smacked my arm, hoping to swat away whatever had bitten or stung me.

There was nothing there. I heard no buzzing. My mum checked my arm to see if there was a sting on my arm, but she didn't see anything.

Initial Moments: Stinging and Throbbing

My arm began to sting and throb. Thankfully I have a medical kit in the car that contains an After Bite ammonia stick, and I used this immediately in the hopes it would help reduce the pain.

After searching online and looking at pictures of various bites and stings, I came to the conclusion that I had been bitten by a horsefly.

Not only did the descriptions and pictures online seem to match, but I also learned that horseflies are attracted to dark colours—and I was, in fact, wearing a black T-shirt on that day.

This photo was taken 10 minutes after the bite. You can see two holes! It must have bitten me twice.

This photo was taken 10 minutes after the bite. You can see two holes! It must have bitten me twice.

Next Few Hours (Day 1)

I continued to use the After Bite stick for the next few hours. I’m not convinced it made a lot of difference if I’m honest, but until I arrived home later that day, I had no other medication.

I take an antihistamine on a daily basis for allergies, and on arriving home, I took another to attempt to reduce the swelling and the irritation.

Within four hours, the area around the bite had begun to feel hard. It felt like I had received a TB injection; my arm felt tingly and heavy.

Days 2 to 5: Itchy and Burning Up

I continued to take two antihistamines every day for the next five days and applied E45 anti-itch cream, which did help to reduce the itching.

I also applied an ice pack to the area a couple of times to try and reduce the heat in the area. This worked temporarily, but within a few minutes of removing the ice pack, my arm was burning again.

After the first two days, the area of the bite still felt hard under the skin, was hot to the touch, and was incredibly itchy—so much so that it woke me up at 3 a.m.! It was agony trying not to scratch it.

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I had to go to the kitchen, take an antihistamine and apply huge quantities of E45 before going back to bed. It took all of my willpower not to scratch the bloody thing.

It was incredibly itchy, so much so that it woke me up at 3 a.m.!

It was incredibly itchy, so much so that it woke me up at 3 a.m.!

End of Day 5: Still Itchy and Hot

Even after five days, my arm was still itchy. I still applied cream two to three times a day, and the area still felt very hot to the touch.

I suspect whatever the horsefly pumped into my arm reacted badly in my system. You can see in the next picture how even though the bite site was very small, there's a large, red, lumpy area around it that looks very angry. My arm still felt really uncomfortable, although not nearly as itchy and uncomfortable as it had been.

Irritated skin, still looking raw

Irritated skin, still looking raw

Day 6: On the Mend

On day six, although my arm was still itchy, the redness had reduced. My arm still felt warm in the area underneath the bite, and I was still applying the E45 anti-itch cream, but at this point, I appeared to be healing.

I continued to take additional antihistamine tablets for roughly two weeks to help reduce the itching. As I have quite sensitive skin, this certainly helped make it more comfortable.

After Week 4: Fully Healed

It took about four weeks for my arm to heal fully. The area on my arm actually looked better earlier than four weeks, but on occasion, it would still become quite itchy. Thankfully, after four weeks, the itchy episodes ceased, and now my arm is back to normal. There are no lasting visible or sensory signs of the bite.

Prevention Tips

In terms of prevention, it, unfortunately, appears that insect repellent is not effective against these vicious creatures. The best way to avoid being bitten is to be aware when you are near open fields and cattle. If you're going to be in an area like this, wear light colours and try to keep as much of your skin covered by clothing as possible.

After my experience, I don’t ever want to be bitten by one of these greedy monsters again!

More About Horsefly Bites

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


That One Tech Guy from Texas on July 27, 2019:

We have horseflies here too and they are absolutely terrible, sometimes I get bitten when I'm out at the farm and there is almost nothing that hurts worse. I'd rather be stung by a bee or wasp because I have terrible reactions, much like a giant wasp + mosquito bite. Ammonia stick doesn't work I guess because it's not really a poison. However, I have found that Chiggerex (for Chigger bites) works really well. It has Benzocaine in it so it deadens it and reduces pain. As for the swelling, lots and lots of anti-inflammatory pills, so sorry that you had to go through this though!

Besarien from South Florida on July 02, 2019:

I feel terrible for you and the horses too because they probably get stung and bitten a lot. Glad you are feeling better.

Gene David Pangan from W. Australia/Philippines on June 25, 2019:

wow, that's a scary story you got there. In Asia, there are also lots of these bugs around. When I was visiting my relatives in the Philippines we were in a resort in the middle of a farm and we got into a swimming pool. The water is cold in the afternoon and the weather is fine. Then suddenly as our bodies submerged and only our shoulder and heads above water, these little monsters zip around and trying to bite whatever skin they could land on. My brother got caught up in the neck and he said it was painful. He thought it was a bee. But the next one he caught it, it was a horsefly. A large fly that sucks the blood even of animals and they bite painfully. So be aware when going out on any farm or you get a bad reaction to its bite like your story.

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