Surviving Summertime Bites and Stings: What You Need to Know | TheUnion.com
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Surviving Summertime Bites and Stings: What You Need to Know

Surviving Summertime Bites and Stings: What You Need to Know

Insect bites and stings can be a nuisance or may lead to illness or allergic reaction. Taking steps to prevent bites and stings can help to keep you and your family safe and healthy this summer.

Enjoying time outdoors during the summer months is truly one of the joys of living in Northern California. However, with that joy can come the occasional bout with misery – in the form of an insect bite or sting.

Stings from bees and wasps, as well as bites from various bugs and spiders, are not uncommon in our area. Knowing what you can do to prevent such injuries – as well as how to treat them when they occur – is important.

The American Dermatological Association points out that most bites and stings are harmless and will resolve with little to no first aid care.



However, some bugs and insects can cause mild to moderate discomfort, as well as spread dangerous diseases or cause allergic reactions.

In our area, one insect that causes concern for people as well as pets is ticks. The dried grasses and shrubs that cover many areas are the perfect nesting grounds for ticks. Simply brushing up against a tick is often all that’s needed for it to latch on to your skin.



Tick bites are often harmless, however some people are allergic to tick bites, and others may contract a blood-borne disease from their bite. If you get bit by a tick and experience any rash or signs of illness, contact your doctor immediately.

Right now (mid to late summer) is primetime for bee stings. In general, honey bees and bumblebees are not aggressive unless harassed. But both can sting you, and bumblebees are able to sting multiple times.

For someone who is allergic to bee stings, a single sting can be fatal. Anyone with a known bee allergy should always carry emergency medication like an Epi-Pen in case of a sting. You can also lessen the chance of bee encounters by removing their food source, such as flowering plants, from areas where you and your family tend to gather.

Like bees, most spiders are harmless to most humans. Their mouths are too small to pierce our skin. The venom of those that can effectively bite humans can cause varying degrees of harm from mild pain and swelling to rare cases of serious reaction and infection.

To reduce your risk of getting bitten, reduce the spider population in your home by keeping small, dark spaces clear of spider webs both inside and outside your home.

To reduce your chances of getting bitten by any type of insect, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

■ Use insect repellent: To protect against mosquitoes, ticks and other bugs, use insect repellent that contains 20—30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing. Always follow the instructions on the repellent and reapply as directed.

If you are also wearing sunscreen, apply your sunscreen first, let it dry, and then apply the insect repellent. Do not use sunscreen that contains insect repellent, as sunscreen must be applied liberally and often while insect repellent should be applied sparingly.

■ Wear appropriate clothing: If you know you’re going to be out at night or hiking in a densely-wooded area, dress appropriately to prevent bug bites. Cover exposed skin as much as possible by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks and closed shoes instead of sandals.

For additional protection, pull your socks up over your pants and tuck your shirt into your pants.

■ Pay attention to the time: Certain insects like mosquitos are more active at dusk, so be aware of the time and plan accordingly if you will be outdoors.

Even with these prevention steps, bug bites can still happen. Fortunately, most bug bites and stings can be safely treated at home.

To treat bug bites and stings at home, the ADA recommends the following tips:

■ For painful bites, such as a bee sting: Take an over-the-counter painkiller, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Always follow the directions on the label and use the correct dose.

■ For bites that itch: Apply an ice pack or an over-the-counter anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone. Another option is to take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine.

To reduce swelling, apply an ice pack to the bite.

■ For serious symptoms: If you experience any serious symptoms after a bug bite, such as a rash, fever, or body aches, see your doctor or a board-certified dermatologist immediately. Make sure you tell the doctor about your recent bite so that they can examine you for a transmitted disease.

With a little prevention, and perhaps some easy home treatment steps, you can prevent a bug bite from derailing your summer fun.


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