Bad Bugs Slideshow: Identifying Bugs and Their Bites

Ticks

Many bugs give us reason for pause, including spiders, chiggers, bees and lice. But few get under our skin — quite literally — like the tick. If you enjoy the outdoors, be careful of ticks — they can attach as you brush past grass and plants. Ticks don’t always carry diseases, and most bites are not serious. But they can carry diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Tick Bites

Once a tick latches onto skin, it often moves to the warm, moist armpits and groin — feeding on blood and passing on any disease it carries. A tick bite can also trigger an allergic reaction. If you have a tick, it is important to remove it properly. To prevent tick bites, keep your arms, legs, and head covered when outdoors. Use tick repellant with DEET on skin or clothing, or products with permethrin on clothing. Check for ticks after spending time in grassy or wooded areas.

Lyme Disease

In the U.S., the Western black–legged tick and the deer tick can carry Lyme disease bacteria. Infected ticks usually don’t spread the disease until they’ve been attached for at least 36 hours. The first sign of infection is often a circular skin rash. Early symptoms may also include fever, headache, and fatigue. Untreated Lyme disease may spread to other parts of the body, including the muscles, joints, heart, and nervous system. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

Black Widow Spiders: Venomous!

Wood piles and tree stumps — that’s where venomous female black widows hide. She is long-legged and glossy black, with a distinctive orange, red, or yellow “hourglass” shape on her underside. These spiders are roughly 1/3 inch wide and 1.5 inches long, counting their long legs.

Black Widow Spider Bites

Black widow spider bites may cause stabbing pain in the bite area, but they can also be painless. Look for one or two red fang marks, redness, tenderness, and a nodule at the bite site. Severe muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, seizure, and a rise in blood pressure may follow soon after. Get medical care immediately. Anti-venom medicine is available. If possible, bring the spider with you for positive identification.

Brown Recluse Spiders Can Have a Nasty Bite

Hiding in attics and closets — in Midwestern and Southern states — that’s where you’ll find brown recluse spiders. The spiders range in color from yellowish-tan to dark brown, with darker legs. Their venom is toxic, and their bite can sometimes cause serious wounds and infection. Yet you may not even feel their bite until later.

Brown Recluse Spider Bites

When the brown recluse bites, it is often painless — then skin may redden, turn white, blister, and becomes painful. Sometimes an ulcer forms. These bites can be deadly in extremely rare cases. Get medical care if you have been bitten by a spider. If you can, bring the spider with you for positive identification.

Head Lice: Itchy!

In hair — that’s where you’ll find lice. They like to hide in the neck area of the scalp and behind the ears. If you have lice, you likely got it from sharing a hat, brush, or other item with a person who has lice. Lice are itchy, but scratching can lead to infection. In severe cases, hair may fall out.

Head Lice Remedies

To kill lice and their eggs (called nits), use lotions, creams, or shampoos from the drug store or prescribed by your doctor which are designed specifically for lice. Wash clothing, bedding, and brushes in hot water and dry in a hot dryer of dry clean to prevent the spread of lice. Check all household members, and treat everyone who has nits or lice.

Fleas: Not for Pets Only

Fleas are small, wingless, agile insects that live off the blood of their host — and they don’t just bite pets. They dine on people, too.

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