Swish. Swash. Splat! Or so I think. As I lift up my hand slowly, carefully, I find no evidence of an insect corpse. I know it will be moments before another buzz in my ear or tickle on my skin. The summer cycle continues…
Ever notice how a mosquito’s bite hurts less than that of a fly? Mosquitos have needle like appendages that dip into your skin and suck. Flies have knife like jaws that slice and cut your skin. Ouch. Both can cause swelling, soreness, redness, and of course, itch.
Biting insects are more than just an itchy annoyance. Mosquitos can transmit serious infections, even in the US, such as the West Nile Virus. This virus can cause fever, joint pains, vomiting, and in serious cases, encephalitis or meningitis. Flies have the potential to transmit foodborne illness as they skitter across your food-filled picnic table. These infections typically cause vomiting and diarrhea, but can lead to more serious illness. Both mosquitos and flies are found all over the globe, and in some countries can cause life-threatening infections.
There are several strategies that you can use to prevent getting these pesky bites.
-Insect repellent is recommended for your skin and clothes. DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and the plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus are all repellents recommended by CDC. You can find more information about insect repellents here. Keep several bottles or packets of the repellent around – in your house, your beach bag, your car, etc.
–Clothing can also make a difference. Long sleeves, long pants, and socks minimize your skin exposure and can reduce but not totally eliminate bites.
–Avoid peak mosquito biting hours. Some mosquitos are particularly active from dusk to dawn.
–Consider using air-conditioning
–Consider mosquito netting for beds – these are inexpensive, made out of a gauze type material and do not restrict airflow. They can also be used when camping.
–Minimize stagnant outdoor water. Drain pool covers, bird baths, flower pots, pet bowls, gutters, etc
–Report dead birds to your local health department. They are can be a sign of West Nile Virus activity
Treatment for most insect bites is simple. Wash the affected area with soap and water. Ice cubes or cold water can be soothing. Topical products, such as those with calamine, can also ease the discomfort. While there are numerous “home-remedies” – anything from vinegar to toothpaste – none have been proven to be any more effective than standard measures. What works best? Patience! Most symptoms go away within a day.
If you have a severe reaction, oozing, pus, or fever, contact your health care provider.
Happy summer and stay safe!