The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

Practice bug safety this summer

Practice bug safety this summer

While we spend more time outdoors in the summer months, we're also exposing ourselves to the insects that bite and sting.

Summer is peak season for insect bites, which typically leave behind some itchy bumps that are bothersome for a few days but go away.

Sometimes, though, insect bites can be more dangerous.

"Insects can carry illnesses such as West Nile virus, Zika virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease," said Valerie Myers, CRNP, WellSpan Urgent Care. "While not all insect bites will lead to these illnesses, some could. That's why it's important to prevent bites when possible."

The best way to do that is by using an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET before going outside. Avoiding the outdoors during peak biting times such as dusk and dawn may also help reduce the risk for mosquito bites.

People who spend time outdoors in wooded or grassy areas should wear protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts, long pants, hats, and boots or closed-toe shoes when possible.

Additional protection can be provided by tucking shirts into pants and pants into socks.

"Always inspect yourself for ticks after coming back inside from an afternoon in the woods," added Myers. "When checking for ticks, focus on the hairline and hair, ears, under the arms, between the legs, around the waist, and the back of the knees."

Tick bites

Occasionally, a tick will be discovered embedded in the skin after spending time outdoors. Many times, however, ticks are not present during a skin check and their presence is instead indicated by a red bullseye.

"Although tick bites can occur even into hunting season, warm weather is when tick activity and the spread of Lyme disease is at its highest," said Myers.

While not all ticks carry Lyme disease, it's not worth the risk to go unprotected or forego a skin check after being outdoors.

"If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause severe arthritis, neurological problems, and even cardiac failure months or years after the initial infection," she added.

In addition to a bullseye rash, flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, fever, or chills indicate you may have been bitten by an infected tick. Symptoms typically appear between three and 30 days after being bitten.

"As with any health issue, if you suspect you may have been bitten by a tick, schedule an appointment with your provider or visit one of our many Urgent Care locations," said Myers.

What do you do if you find a tick?

  1. Remove the tick from your skin, using fine-tipped tweezers to grip the tick to steadily pull the tick upward. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people avoid twisting or jerking the tick, which can cause parts of the tick's mouth to break off and remain in the skin.
  2. Cleanse the area with warm water and soap or rubbing alcohol.
  3. Don't crush a tick with your fingers to kill it. Instead, dispose of it by flushing it down the toilet, placing it in alcohol, or putting it in a sealed container.