When Bugs Bite
Protect your skin this summer.
With the warm weather of summer comes the allure of getting out and about. Along with the warm weather come bugs – lots and lots of bugs.
Mosquitoes, fleas, ants, bees, spiders, and ticks are all notorious for biting and stinging people. Most of the time, these bites and stings are harmless, only causing minor discomfort and itching. But other times, bites and stings can cause a severe allergic reaction, major discomfort, or serious diseases.
What can you do this summer to prevent getting bit or stung by those pesky bugs? What is the best way to treat a bite or sting? You’re about to find out.
Keep the Bugs at Bay
Don’t let bugs keep you from enjoying the outdoors during nice weather. Here are some practical ways to protect you and your family from those annoying pests.
- If you can, keep a barrier such as screens or nets between you and the bugs.
- Stay away from where most of the bugs live: woods and grassy areas.
- Don’t leave food and drinks sitting out as this will attract pests.
- Mosquitoes breed in water, so make sure there is no standing water in your yard. This includes flowerpots, kiddie pools, and pet dishes.
- If necessary, treat your clothes, shoes, and outdoor gear with permethrin. This chemical repels and kills mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects.
- Avoid wearing perfumes and scented lotions or soaps when you plan to be outdoors.
- Don’t dress like a flower: bright colors attract bees.
- Weather permitting, wear long sleeves and pants to protect your skin. Then don’t worry what you look like and tuck your pants into your socks or shoes.
- If these methods don’t do the trick, use insect repellant spray. Remember not to use insect repellant on babies or pets. Older children should make sure they use a repellant with less than 10-percent DEET.
If you suffer itching and pain from a bite or sting, help is available – typically in the comfort of your own home. For itching that won’t stop, try taking an oral antihistamine or use a topical anti-itch cream. For pain, ibuprofen or acetaminophen may bring relief, or you may require a skin cream labeled as “analgesic” or that contains lidocaine, hydrocortisone, or pramoxine. Additionally, keeping children’s fingernails short will help keep them from scratching bites, which make the bites worse and can lead to infection.
If you’ve been stung by a bee and the stinger is left in the skin, take a straight-edged object and scrape the stinger off. A credit card will work fine, but tweezers may squeeze more venom into the skin. After the stinger is removed, wash the area and apply ice to reduce swelling.
Be sure to check for ticks after being outdoors. If one is found, take tweezers and pinch the tick as close to the skin as you can and pull straight up. Put it in a sealed plastic bag and then in the trash. Cleanse the skin with rubbing alcohol or with soap and water.
Rarely, insect bites and stings need medical attention. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction occur within minutes and include hives, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, chest tightness, breathing difficulty, swelling, or itching on any area of the face. If you or someone you’re with experiences any of these symptoms seek medical care immediately.
An infected tick can transmit Lyme disease though a bite. This causes fever, fatigue, headache, and a rash that looks like a bull’s-eye. It is important to treat Lyme disease with antibiotics early before it spreads to the heart, joints, and nervous system.
Another illness spread by ticks is the Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Symptoms begin as fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, headache, and lack of appetite. About a week later, a rash appears in most cases. Antibiotics are used to treat this illness.
The West Nile virus is spread by infected mosquitoes. Symptoms are flu-like and include fever, aches, rash, and headache. Most infections are mild and recovery is swift, but in other cases, the infection can be serious and even deadly. There’s no treatment to cure this virus.
Lastly, if a bite or sting shows signs of infection and the normal redness and minor swelling has worsened or a fever develops, see your doctor.
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