Bug bites and stings are common in the summer months. Most of these injuries resolve quickly on their own, but some bites and stings can lead to serious diseases.
Mosquitoes, Fleas and Bees
Mosquitoes often congregate near standing water and they’re more prevalent at dawn and dusk. Mosquito bites produce a small, itchy, red hive. Most mosquito bites are harmless, but some mosquitoes carry serious diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue fever and malaria. Scratching the bites can also lead to infection.
The reddish, brown wingless flea is a bloodsucking parasite that can jump great distances. Often found on pets, fleas can bite people, too. Flea bites are irritating and appear as small, red bumps with a red halo at the center. The itchy bites usually occur in multiples of 3 or 4 and may be in a straight line.
Stings from flying insects such as bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets cause immediate pain, redness and swelling at the sting site with symptoms worsening over the next 36 hours. Quickly remove stingers from skin by scraping with a credit card edge. Wash with soap and water and reduce pain and swelling by applying an ice pack for 20 minutes, repeating hourly as needed.
Since these insects live in colonies, multiple stings can occur and can be serious. Signs of a serious reaction include hives or rash over the entire body, swelling of the mouth or throat, wheezing, breathing difficulties, nausea or vomiting, chest pain or fainting. These symptoms require emergency attention.
Ticks are found on plants and brush and may attach themselves to humans, particularly on the scalp, underarm and groin areas. Inspect your body for ticks after spending time outdoors and remove any ticks you find as soon as possible. To remove, grab the tick close to the skin with tweezers and pull straight. Afterwards, wash the area with soap and water.
Some ticks carry diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme. After removal, watch for fever, headache, muscle or joint pain, or a spreading skin rash. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your dermatologist.
Most spiders are not harmful to humans and produce only mild symptoms of redness, inflammation, itching or mild pain. Brown recluse or black widow bites are more serious. If possible, save the spider for identification.
The brown recluse is a highly poisonous spider with a violin pattern on its back. Brown recluse bites produce severe pain at the bite site along with itching, nausea, vomiting, fever and generalized muscle pain. It leaves a crusty and poor healing lesion and requires treatment by a dermatologist or other medical professional.
Black widow spiders are also poisonous and can be identified by their black shiny abdomen with a red hourglass underneath. Their bites produce symptoms within one hour including pain, muscle cramps, spasms, tremors, weakness, abdominal pain or elevated blood pressure. Victims should receive the antivenin as soon as possible.
Any bug bite or sting that won’t heal, produces a rash, becomes infected or causes systemic symptoms, warrants a visit to the dermatologist. To avoid bites and stings, wear long sleeves and pants tucked into boots in the woods. Use insect repellent with DEET and avoid perfume or scented lotions and creams.