Gorgeous spring and summer weather means it’s time for the whole family to head outside! But your family members aren’t the only ones wanting to enjoy the warmer weather — this time of year is when all kinds of bugs like to come out in full force. While we love seeing all the pretty ladybugs, buzzing bumblebees and beautiful butterflies, there are some creepy crawlies that we wish we could avoid. In addition to painful or itchy bites, certain bugs can transmit dangerous and even deadly diseases. Here’s what you can do to prevent becoming ill from some common bug bites:
Mosquitoes don’t just leave an itchy, red bump — they can pass along unpleasant diseases like West Nile virus, malaria and even the Zika virus. To keep from being bitten by a mosquito, experts recommend that you get rid of areas with standing water that mosquitoes can use to breed, use nets and window screens to keep them from getting into living spaces and use repellents with substances like DEET or eucalyptus oil to provide some temporary protection from mosquitoes landing on you. While not every mosquito carries a dangerous disease, if you notice troubling symptoms like fever, rash, fatigue or stomach troubles, you should visit your doctor or your local urgent care for treatment.
Ticks spread Lyme disease, which can cause years of suffering for those infected and is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Lyme disease is sometimes referred to as “the Great Imitator”, and sufferers can be misdiagnosed with everything from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue to arthritis and psychiatric disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that while 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year, the actual number of sufferers could be several times higher. Ticks are found in wooded and grassy areas, so people who spend a lot of time outdoors are most at-risk. Repellents with DEET are the only ones known to be effective at repelling ticks, and wearing thick, long-sleeved clothing when you go out in wooded or grassy areas will keep ticks from finding exposed skin to attach to. And if you notice symptoms like fatigue, soreness or a bull’s-eye shaped rash, begin seeking treatment for a possible tick bite as soon as possible!
Flea bites typically come in clusters, and are most often from pets or other animals that have fleas. Fleas rarely pass on dangerous diseases to humans, but some people are allergic to flea saliva. If you find itchy, red bumps on either you or your pet, it’s important to visit either a doctor or a veterinarian to get flea killing shampoo or body wash, and look into a pest killing service to fully eradicate them from your home and yard. Because flea bites can be very itchy, it is recommended that you use an antihistamine cream on the bites to keep yourself from scratching too much and causing a secondary infection.
Bedbugs can be found all over the home, in bedding, furniture and even electrical fixtures. They feed on human blood, and because they are mostly active at night, they can go unnoticed for a long time. Bed bug bites can cause no symptoms at all, but often they cause rashes, psychological symptoms and allergic reactions. A bedbug infestation is nearly impossible to eradicate without actually burning the materials the bedbugs have been found on, because effective pesticides tend to have dangerous chemicals in them. The best way to prevent an infestation is to eliminate clutter and encase furniture in plastic to minimize hiding places for the bugs, and to reduce your contact with the furniture and clothing of those you don’t know to keep from unwittingly picking up hitchhikers.
Summer weather can be a treat for insects, so take care that you don’t give them a free pass to make a meal of you and your family! Visit your local AFC/ AFC to learn more tips on how to bite-proof yourself and how to treat bug bites to minimize the chances of a dangerous infection!