With warmer weather and summer on the horizon, it is important to go over proper skincare. In addition to our usual concern for protecting our skin from the sun’s rays, we also need to be aware of some threats we may encounter in the great outdoors such as bug bites and stings. Though many of the bites and stings can be bothersome, they are mostly harmless, however, certain bugs can spread infectious diseases such as Zika Virus, Lyme Disease, Dengue fever, and Malaria. Whether a bee sting or mosquito bite, it is important to understand what to do to properly treat and prevent these irritations.
Identifying common bug bites
It can be tricky telling what insect bit you if you weren’t aware at the time. Here are some ways to help pinpoint what summer bug might have bitten you.
- Bed Bugs leave large circles of bites often in a row that cause itching, redness, swelling, and even blisters. Bed bugs can live in beddings, chairs, couches, curtains, and many other fabrics, including clothing.
- Black flies can deliver painful bites, though we don’t typically associate flies with bites or stings. Certain species of flies can bite and carry disease. Black fly bites are painful, itchy, and appear as small blisters.
- Chiggers are not insects, but a common summer pest found in the outdoors. They are painless biters but produce itchy raised red bumps that appear similar to a poison ivy reaction.
- Fire Ants have both a bite and sting. These usually have a red center surrounded by lighter colored rings. Cloudy fluid may develop inside the bites.
- Fleas are common if you live with pets. Their bites begin as an itchy rash of tiny bumps that may bleed. The area may swell or turn white when touched.
- Mosquito bites can be severely itchy and scratching them can cause them to break leading to infection. Mosquito bites typically have a small puncture at the center. Mosquitoes often lurk in humid, shaded areas near bodies of standing water such as pools, ponds, and lakes.
- Ticks can pass numerous illnesses. If bitten, be sure to remove the tick if possible and watch for symptoms such as rashes, headaches, or fever which may be signs of tick-related diseases.
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of insect that bit you, however common bug bites or sting symptoms may include:
- A small raised or red bump(s)
Some people may develop an allergic reaction to bug bites or stings, which is most common in stings from bees and wasps. Others may develop a more severe reaction that may require immediate medical attention. Signs of severe reactions include:
- Difficulty breathing, chest pain, or increased heart rate
- Hives on areas of your skin where you were not bitten
- Headaches or dizziness
- Nausea, cramps, or vomiting
- Swelling of the tongue, throat, lips, or face
Symptoms felt as a result of a bite or sting typically resolve within a few days if treated properly. If symptoms worsen or you do not experience relief after treatment, contact your doctor.
Use Bug Repellent
Protect against bugs by using an insect repellent that contains at least 20-30% DEET. Spray the repellent on exposed skin and clothing. Follow the instructions on the label and reapply as directed. Avoid using sunscreen that contains insect repellent as sunscreen must be applied liberally and often as opposed to insect repellent which should be applied sparingly.
You can pretreat clothing with insect repellent ahead of time if you plan on being out in the woods or after dark. Follow instructions carefully and allow clothes to dry for at least 2 hours before wearing them.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
If you are going into wooded areas or spending the day outside, wear the right type of clothing. Wear light clothing that is moisture-wicking to prevent overheating, and cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and closed-toed shoes. For additional protection, pull your socks over your pants and tuck your shirt into your pants. If possible, tie back your hair or cover your head with a hat.
Use A Bed Net
During the spring and summer, many of us may consider spending the night outside. Whether in a tent or cabin, protect yourself as you sleep with a bed net. Purchase a net that has been pre-treated with insect repellent. If it is not large enough to reach the floor, secure it underneath your mattress.
Sometimes despite our best efforts on prevention, bug bites may still occur. Thankfully though, most bug bites and stings can be treated safely at home.
For painful bites or stings, we recommend taking an over-the-counter painkiller such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Be sure to always follow the instructions and use the correct dosage.
Bites that itch can be some of the most bothersome, so in these cases, you can apply an ice pack to the area or an over-the-counter anti-itch cream such as hydrocortisone. Another option can be to take an oral antihistamine bought from a local store.
Swelling is a common symptom of bug bites and stings and a cold compress can reduce pain and swelling. Over-the-counter medication may also be able to reduce swelling while treating other symptoms.
For more information on how to prevent and treat bug bites and stings, please contact Esterson Dermatology today.