Avoid Insect Bites And Stings During Summer
Warm weather has arrived and with it comes the expected nuisance of insect bites and stings.
Insect stings usually result in a local skin reaction as a result of venom injected by the stinger. A reddened, painful area with an itchy sensation may develop that can last up to five days. Scratching can cause the area to become infected. Multiple stings can result in a more generalized reaction that includes vomiting, diarrhea, swelling and collapse. Stings in the mouth and throat are of special concern because swelling may block the breathing passages.
The most dangerous reaction to a sting is a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Signs of anaphalaxis include hives, flushing, itching, swelling, nausea, fever and trouble breathing. Anyone with suspected anaphylaxis should call 911 to be taken to the nearest emergency department immediately.
Insect bites are usually less painful than stings with skin reactions that don't last long. Transmission of disease is more of a concern with insect bites. Mosquitoes bite more people than any other blood-sucking insect. Most fly bites are painful, but short-lived. Inflammation and itching is similar to that associated with mosquito bites.
Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Their bite is usually painless with little or no local reaction. The tick will remain attached until it becomes filled with blood and falls off the host, which can take up to 10 days. Two diseases that can be spread by ticks are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) and Lyme disease Symptoms include high fever, headache, rash, fatigue and muscle aches. Symptoms can start up to a few weeks after the tick bite.
Chiggers are really mites, which are more closely related to spiders. The adult usually attaches at the base of a hair follicle. Bites resemble those of a mosquito, but are usually found underneath clothing. While many possible spider bites are attributed to the Brown Recluse Spider, few cases can actually be attributed to this particular spider. The Brown Recluse prefers to live in dark, dry, quiet places and comes into contact with humans only when disturbed.
Prevention and Treatment of Stings and Bites
* Cover exposed skin with clothing and avoid bright colors that attract nectar-gathering insects. Tuck pant legs into socks and tuck in shirts.
* Stay away from areas with lots of weeds and blooming plants that attract bees and wasps. Garbage and food also attract these scavengers.
* Stay on paths in wooded areas and avoid underbrush. When camping, set up your campsite away from hollow logs and caves where mosquitoes gather. Use screening, nets and enclosures.
* If you are outside, pour drinks from cans into cups before drinking to avoid any insects that might have flown into the can.
* Try to avoid being outside during peak mosquito times (dusk), especially in areas that have a high concentration of mosquitos present (including lakes, ponds, creeks, and swampy areas).
Remember: stinging is a defensive action on the part of the insect that usually occurs when the insect is threatened. Avoid rapid movements when a stinging insect approaches.
Insect repellents with DEET are considered safe if used according to directions. Use formulations with less than 10 percent DEET, especially on small children. Wearing long sleeves or long pants will help limit the amount of exposed skin you need to apply repellent to. Apply the repellent to all exposed skin, avoiding your face. Spray the repellant into your hand and apply it carefully to your face with your hand. Wash DEET off skin with soap and water when the repellent is no longer necessary. The new insect repellents containing picaridin are considered effective and safe for use, even in small children. Because these products are odorless and not oily, they are more pleasant to use for adults also.
Most stinging insects, except honeybees, withdraw their stinger after a sting. Use the edge of a credit card or dull utensil to remove stingers. Do not grasp the end of the stinger - more venom may be injected into the sting. Wash the area gently with soap and water. Applying a baking soda paste at the site will reduce discomfort. A cold compress can also be applied over the paste. Prevent frostbite by avoiding direct contact of ice to the skin.
Ticks can be removed by gently grasping the body close to the skin with tweezers or your fingers protected by tissue. Pull the tick off with a slow, steady pressure. If the head breaks off in the skin, seek medical help for removal. Wash your hands and the area with soap and water after removing the tick. Spider bites should be cleaned with soap and water. Use warm compresses several times a day and apply a topical antibiotic ointment, if needed. If you have a tick or spider bite, note the date on your calendar and contact your physician if you develop a rash or flu-like illness during the next few weeks.
By Clarian Health
This page is updated on May 11, 2013.