If you love the outdoors, it’s hard to stay inside when the sun is shining. Summer offers plenty of sunshine, but it also brings clouds of jumping, biting, stinging, swarming bugs. Insects can be irritating and leave bites that bother you for weeks, but bugs can be more than just a nuisance.
Mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects can transmit illnesses to humans. Those bug bites can be more than just bothersome; they can be quite harmful and in some cases deadly.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever
This is the most common tick-borne disease in Arkansas. RMSF is spread by dog ticks. Half of the people who get Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever were not aware that they had been bitten by a tick.
Symptoms may show up between 2 and 14 days of the bite, and include fever, headache, muscle pain, and pink rash on wrists and ankles.
Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis
These diseases show up with fever, headache, muscle pain, and vomiting within 10 days of a bite.
People can catch tularemia from a tick bite, from contact with infected animals, and from contact with contaminated air, dirt, or water. This is one of the deadliest tick-borne diseases, and it can be fatal if it is not treated. It responds to antibiotics.
There have been no confirmed cases of Lyme disease from ticks in Arkansas, though people traveling to other areas may become infected and notice symptoms after they return home. The Arkansas Department of Health continues to be vigilant about Lyme Disease.
Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI)
A rash with aches and pains sometimes follows tick bites.
All of these diseases require blood tests to confirm a diagnosis. They are treated with antibiotics. If you or your child is bitten by a tick and has symptoms, see your doctor.
Bee Sting Allergies
Some people have more than diseases or viruses to worry about. Most of us experience a little discomfort from a bee sting, but for those who are allergic to bee venom, a sting can be much more serious. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who have a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting have a 30 to 60 percent chance of anaphylaxis the next time they are stung.This condition can be fatal.
If a bee sting is followed by itching, a burning sensation of the skin, or difficulty breathing, see a medical professional immediately.
Avoiding Bites and Stings
You don’t have to stay indoors all summer to avoid bugs and insects. There are ways to keep bugs away and prevent bug bites.
DEET has been a go-to bug repellent for more than half a century, and while it certainly is effective, DEET can be dangerous. According to the Agency for for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, has been documented to cause effects including mild skin irritation, lethargy, seizures, and even death. Be careful when using bug sprays that contain DEET. Try to spray clothing but avoid direct skin contact, inhalation, or ingestion.
Picaridin has been gaining traction as an alternative to DEET in recent years. It has been shown to be equally effective as DEET when used in the same amount, but without all of the scary side effects.
Permetherin is another DEET alternative. The main advantage permethrin has over DEET and even picaridin is that you don’t have to spray yourself down with chemicals. Permethrin is used to treat clothing so it’s not as easily absorbed into the skin.
Those three chemical options have been proven to work as bug repellents; however, some may be a little wary of dousing themselves in potentially harmful chemicals. There are a few natural bug repellent options out there. Solutions using cinnamon oil, catnip, eucalyptus, and citronella are commonly used to ward off insects; however, a recent test from Consumer Reports suggests that many natural bug sprays aren’t as effective as the chemically synthesized sprays.
There are other measures you can take to avoid bites and stings from bugs and insects besides just wearing bug spray.
- Bright clothing tends to attract more bugs than light colored clothing. Blue and tan are especially unattractive to insects.
- Avoid wearing strong perfume, cologne, or deodorant.
- Stay out of tall grass or heavily wooded areas when possible
- Wear shirts with long sleeves and pants. Coverage is key in avoiding bites and stings.
- Avoid drinking sweet beverages. Sipping from a can that a bee has flown into is no picnic.
If you are concerned you have a bug or tick bite with symptoms like fever, headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle aches, or rash, contact your doctor immediately or visit one of our walk-in clinics.