Summer means bugs & bites

Summer equals more outdoor time, which means more opportunities to encounter bugs and for bug bites. With all the wet weather we have had, and the mild winter, it seems those creepy crawlies are out in force.

Although most bug bites are harmless, some can spread dangerous diseases like Zika virus, dengue, Lyme disease, and malaria. Particularly if you’re visiting areas with known insect-borne diseases, it’s important to take steps to reduce your risk.

Tips to prevent bug bites

To help prevent bug bites, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

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

Make sure you 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. You can also pre-treat outer layers of clothing with insect repellent containing the active ingredient Permethrin. Follow the directions carefully and allow the clothes to dry for at least two hours before wearing them.

Use bed nets. If sleeping in the great outdoors, use bed nets to protect against mosquitoes. Look for one that has been pre-treated with pyrethroid insecticide. If it doesn’t reach the floor, tuck it under the mattress for maximum protection.

Pay attention to outbreaks. Check the CDC Travel Health Notices website for  travel warnings and recommendations.

Treating bug bites

Sometimes, despite one’s greatest efforts, bug bites still happen. Fortunately, most bug bites and stings can be safely treated at home.

To treat bug bites and stings at home, dermatologists recommend 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.

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.

Ticks

Ticks in particular are always a worry. Ticks cause more human disease than any other insect in Arkansas, including mosquitoes. Not all ticks cause human infections, however.  Which ticks transmit disease in Arkansas? Which tickborne diseases are found in Arkansas? How do you prevent tickborne disease?

Tickborne disease in Arkansas

Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever is by far the most common tickborne disease in Arkansas.

Many tickborne disease cause similar symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headaches, pain, muscle aches, or rashes. Symptoms of tickborne disease can be mild or severe. It’s important to seek treatment as early as possible. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any symptoms from a tick bite.

Ticks found in Arkansas

The following tick species are found in Arkansas.

American Dog Tick, Blacklegged Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Gulf Coast Tick, and Lone Star Tick

It’s important to note that although these ticks are found in Arkansas, and capable of transmitting tickborne disease, a bite from one of these tick species does not necessarily mean that will cause an infection. However, the longer a tick stays attached, the higher the risk of infection. Remove ticks as soon as possible to help prevent transmission of disease.

Preventing tickborne disease

Ticks are active year-round in Arkansas, but you’re more likely to see them during the warm spring and summer months. Preventing tickborne disease means limiting your exposure to tick bites.

Mow your yard regularly. Ticks can still lurk in maintained lawn, but they prefer tall grass and thick vegetation.

Wear insect repellent that keeps ticks away when heading outdoors.

People who work outdoors, or spend a lot of time outdoors, may want to treat clothing with permethein or other insect repellent solutions.

Avoid dense grass and vegetation. Stick to trails when hiking or at parks.

Light colored clothing won’t make you invisible to ticks, but it can help you spot them if they’re crawling on you.

If you can’t avoid tick-infested areas, tuck in your shirt and pull your socks over your pant cuffs to make it more difficult for ticks to bite you.

Check for ticks regularly.

Shower as soon as you get home after spending time in areas with ticks.

Tickborne disease can affect your pets as well. Check your animals for ticks and talk to a veterinarian for ways to help keep your pets safe.

You do not need to see a doctor for every tick bite. However if the bite looks infected, if you have flu like symptoms or an enlarged node you should see your doctor. Early detection and treatment can help prevent serious complications from tickborne diseases.

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