4 bites that could really bug you

4 bites that could really bug you

If you live in the Midwest, you know about bugs, especially in the warmer months, when mosquitoes and other insects are out—and biting.

Dr. Dwayne Buchanan, a family medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill., says most bug bites are just an itchy nuisance, but some may require medical attention.

“It’s not uncommon for people to have bite reactions,” Dr. Buchanan says. “The size of the welt or itchiness of the bite really depends on the part of the body where the bite occurred or the amount of histamine or venom that was injected with the bite.

“Bug bite diagnosis is sometimes difficult because you have to catch the culprit in the act to be sure of what bit you,” he says.

Dr. Buchanan recommends watching out for these four bugs and has some advice on preventing bites:

‘Skeeters’
Mosquito bites are probably the most common in the Midwest. Fortunately, severe symptoms are rare, but those carrying the West Nile virus can bring high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, muscle weakness and paralysis. At worst, the neurological effects can be permanent, says Dr. Buchanan.

While mosquito bites cannot always be avoided, keep in mind that insects are attracted to sweat, alcohol, perfumes and dark clothing. Use an insect repellent with an EPA-registered active ingredient. Be sure to empty standing water where mosquitoes and other bugs breed, Dr. Buchanan says. If you’re camping, ditch the perfume and cologne.

Bedbugs
Bedbugs make the headlines from time to time, often in urban areas. But it’s best to always be vigilant.

Many affected by bedbugs don’t even feel the bites and may not see a reaction for days. The good news is that bedbugs do not transmit disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The best way to prevent bedbugs is to regularly inspect for signs of an infestation, an exercise not for the faint-hearted, Dr. Buchanan says. Look for exoskeletons of bedbugs after molting, bedbugs in the folds of mattresses and sheets and a sweet musty odor. You might even find rusty-colored blood spots from blood-filled fecal material that bedbugs often excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture

Ticks
Blacklegged tick species, commonly called deer ticks, are frequently found in the upper Midwest and can transmit Lyme disease. These ticks are most active from May through July.

If a tick has been attached and feeding for less than 24 hours, chances of infection are small. Do a body tick check if you believe you’ve been exposed.

“Symptoms of Lyme disease include headache, chills, fever, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and a red rash that resembles a bulls eye,” Dr. Buchanan says.

If you find a tick, use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick’s head as close to the skin as possible (without crushing it) and pull it directly out. Make sure to see your doctor if you feel you may have been exposed to Lyme disease. In most cases, Lyme disease can be effectively treated with prescribed antibiotics. To avoid tick bites, Dr. Buchanan recommends:

  • Use an insect repellent with EPA-registered active ingredient
  • Wear light-colored clothing to help spot ticks when they are on your clothes
  • Stay away from heavily wooded or grassy areas

Spiders
Bites from a black widow or brown recluse can require medical care, although fatalities are incredibly rare, Dr. Buchanan says. You may not feel the bite of the black widow, but within an hour the pain will spread through your abdomen, causing cramps or rigidity in your abdominal muscles.

A brown recluse bite eventually forms an ulcer like lesion that can get fairly large. Most people do fine with muscle relaxants and wound care, says Dr. Buchanan.

Properly identifying the suspect spider helps to determine the best course of treatment. Most bites blamed on spiders are actually false and come from other culprits.

Dr. Buchanan advises to contact your physician if you are concerned about a bug bite.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.

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