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Ticks and mosquitoes and bees? Oh my!
Your guide to the summer’s most unwanted pesky pests
While these bugs play crucial roles in the stability and development of our ecosystems, they can occasionally pose threats to our health when coming in contact with us. Use this guide to learn more about the potential risks some of these creatures pose, how to avoid encounters, and what to do after a bite or sting.
Ticks are small parasites that bite and latch onto a host and feed on their blood. Ticks are commonly found in wooded areas, bushes, and high grasses. Ticks carry many blood borne illnesses, so be sure to take necessary precautions to keep yourself healthy.
When hiking or walking in a wooded area, apply bug spray with DEET to repel ticks. Avoid walking directly through bushes or brush, stay on trails, and walk in the middle of the path. Upon returning from a hike, wash your clothes, bathe, and do a tick check, inspecting all parts of your body for ticks.
Removing a tick
If you find a tick, remain calm and remove it as quickly as possible. Using tweezers, clamp the tick around the part closest to the skin and pull upward. Avoid twisting or quickly pulling at the tick, because this may prevent you from removing the entirety of the tick. After removal, clean the skin area and dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet or wrapping it tightly in tape or a sealed bag.
Keep an eye on the area of skin where you found the tick for a couple of weeks. If you notice a rash - particularly in the shape of a bull’s eye or target-or develop any fever-like symptoms, see your doctor right away. These may be signs of tick borne illnesses such as Lyme disease or borrelia miyamotoi.
Like ticks, mosquitoes feed off the blood of a host. They leave behind itchy bites and can carry diseases. Mosquitoes’ peak breeding season is during warmer months, so use these precautions to avoid and treat mosquito bites.
Apply bug spray that either has DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus as the active ingredient, as recommended by the CDC and EPA. Wear clothing that covers the skin. Mosquitoes breed in bodies of water, so areas near water or areas that are particularly warm and moist will have more mosquito activity.
If you are bitten by a mosquito, try to avoid scratching. An anti-itch cream may help with this symptom. In some cases, mosquitoes can transmit diseases such as West Nile Virus, yellow fever, malaria, and encephalitis. If you develop any fever-like symptoms or aches and pains, inform your doctor.
Unlike ticks and mosquitoes, bees typically won’t bother humans when left undisturbed. However, they can sting when they feel threatened, at best leaving a pesky bump and at worst causing a severe allergic reaction.
Be careful not to walk through flower gardens or plant bed areas where bees are pollinating. Wear shoes when walking in grasses to avoid stepping on a bee. Occasionally, bright prints or sweet foods and drinks may unintentionally attract bees.
Treating a sting
A reaction to a bee sting may vary depending on how allergic a person is to the bee sting venom. If you or a friend experiences severe symptoms such as swelling, anaphylaxis, difficulty breathing, or dizziness, call 911 right away. If you or the stung individual carries epinephrine shots, more commonly referred to as an epi-pen for these sorts of allergic reactions, you still must go to the emergency room after this is administered.
For those who experience less severe reactions, home treatment for bee stings is quick and simple. Use an index card, your finger, or tweezers to scrape out and remove the stinger. Do not squeeze the stinger or venom sac, as this will inject more venom into the wound. Over-the-counter pain killers, antihistamines, anti-itch lotions, and ice may be used to treat mild symptoms. If any severe allergy symptoms occur, do not hesitate to call 911 and seek medical help.
Written by Gina Nerone, UHS Web and Communications Assistant