July 24, 2012
Summer is here. And along with all the outdoor fun comes the chance of bug bites and stings.
For most of us, biting and stinging insects are just small nuisances. But for some people, they can cause a serious problem, according to MedicalNewsToday.com.
Margie Andreae, M.D., is an associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. She said about three percent of people can develop a severe reaction to a bug bite.
Andreae offers tips to help treat insect bites and stings.
People who are allergic to insect bites should take precautions. They should carry a card, bracelet, or necklace that lets people know about their allergy. Your doctor may have prescribed a medication for you. The medication should be used in case of an allergic reaction. It is important that both you and your family know exactly how to use it.
When you're looking for the best repellents to prevent bites, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommendations.
It says to only use repellents that have ingredients meeting Environmental Protection Agency approval. Products with these ingredients typically last for long periods after being applied.
EPA-registered products that provide enough repellent to help you avoid the bites of disease carrying mosquitoes are:
EPA says the active ingredients DEET and picaridin are "conventional repellents" and oil of lemon eucalyptus, PMD, and IR3535 are "bio pesticide repellents," which come from natural materials. For more information on repellent active ingredients, see www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/mosquitoes/ai_insectrp.htm .
No matter what product you use, if you start to get mosquito bites, reapply the repellent according to the label instructions. Get away from the area with biting insects if possible.
CDC also suggests using repellents on clothes, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear. Registered with EPA for this use is permethrin. It is a highly effective insecticide and repellent. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects and spiders and keeps working after repeated laundering.
EPA recommends when using insect repellents:
The label for products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus says that they should not to be used on children younger than 3. For more information on the use of repellent on children, visit the CDC's Frequently Asked Questions about Repellent Use.
Andreae said the most common insects to cause problems for children are mosquitoes.
"Mosquito bites generally cause a localized reaction in most children. But parents often mistake this reaction as something more severe," she said. Andreae added many parents might think a bite is an infection. And that brings them into the clinic to be seen by a clinician.
Severe reactions to a mosquito bite are extremely rare. Reactions usually happen about three to four days after the insect bite. "That is the time when the bite should be healing and nearly gone," Andreae said.
Bugs are not the only things in nature that cause summer problems. Many rashes are caused by plants — especially those with spines or thorns. These plants include cacti and prickly pear, figs, mulberries, thistles, and saw palmetto.
According to Medicinenet.com , if the spine gets under your skin, it can cause itchiness and bumps. The rash is typically not a problem. But you can develop a staph or fungal infection if microbes are present.
The most well known plants linked to skin rashes and irritations are poison ivy, oak, and sumac. These plants contain a sap called urushiol. Urushiol causes a rash when it comes in contact with the skin in about 50% of adults in North America.
The rash often comes with blisters arranged in streaks. This typically happens within hours or up to four days after exposure. It doesn't always come on at the same time. People often mistakenly assume a new rash means they were exposed again.
That depends on the plant and the reaction.
In the case of cacti or other spiny plants, the spine should be carefully removed from the skin. Usually, you should use tweezers. If it's a really small spine, apply glue and gauze to the site. Then, allow it to dry and peel it off.
Minor itching, irritation, or rash can be typically treated with an oral antihistamine or over-the-counter topical steroid. But if a rash doesn't respond to over-the-counter treatments, you should see a skin doctor. In cases where a rash is accompanied by more severe reactions such as difficulty in breathing or swallowing, go to the emergency room immediately.
If you come in contact with poison ivy, rinse the skin with water immediately. About 50% of the urushiol will come off if you rinse within 10 minutes. But avoid soap; it can spread the resin.
So be careful and be safe this summer. Take care of bug bites and stings as soon as possible. And be on the lookout for the plants that cause rashes.