Living in South Florida, there are many bugs that can target you and your family, many of which may be sharing the same indoor space as you. Sometimes, a little bit of calamine lotion does the trick, but what happens when it doesn’t? A short primer on bug bites may help.
Types of Bug Bites
- To be sure, mosquitos are a health hazard, especially in South Florida where they love to breed in small pools of stagnant water, like a bird bath or in buckets. While most people are fully aware of their itchy, irritating bites, in a worst case scenario mosquitos can pass on malaria, West Nile virus, dengue fever, sleeping sickness, and now Zika.
- Bee Stings. Bees, hornets, wasps – the severity of the sting depends on the species. No matter the bite, your reaction will result in the area becoming swollen and itchy. In most cases, the pain and swelling will go away in a few days; however, in rare cases the sting can result in anaphylactic shock, an allergic reaction that makes it hard to breathe, can lower blood pressure, and can, in fact, be life-threatening.
- Flea Bites. There is a reason why your yard or home can become a flea circus – fleas don’t fly, they jump from place to place. Fleas leave itchy welts on the skin – most commonly around the feet and ankles. If your pet has fleas, don’t think you won’t be a target as well. Flea bites eventually fade away, but you likely will need a pesticide or “flea bomb” to rid your home of the pesky creatures.
- Spider Bites. There are more than 3,000 species of spiders in the United States, the majority of which are harmless. However, if you should be bitten by one, there could be complications depending on the variety of spider you have come into contact with. With any spider bite, expect swelling and a red welt; with more severe bites – such as the Brown Recluse or Black Widow – expect a much more severe reaction that requires immediate medical attention.
- Tick bites can cause myriad reactions – most commonly Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Most people are familiar with the bullseye-shaped rash that may accompany some tick bites; other times there may be no indication of a tick bite but rather, symptoms like headache and muscle fatigue that may manifest over time and are often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia or other disease. Blood tests can confirm a tick-borne disease.
- Horseflies prefer hot, humid areas, so no wonder Florida is rife with them. While horsefly bites are a problem for horses – they can cause equine anemia amongst other diseases – they are relatively harmless to humans. Still, the bite can hurt and can become infected if scratched excessively.
Nature can be feisty, so there is no way you can totally prevent a bug bite. However, you can take precautions to reduce your risk. While outside, try lighting up a citronella candle or turning on bug lamp to ward off flying predators. Cover up as much skin as possible when in areas with especially high bug populations – especially tall grasses of wooded areas. Take precaution when exploring areas where there could be hidden or embedded nests. When used correctly, insect repellants can be effective at preventing bites. Know your area; bug activity may be more intense at dusk or dawn. Be sure to drain standing pools of water and keep swimming pools properly chlorinated. With pets, ensure they are treated for ticks and fleas; and when checking into a hotel or bringing in used furniture or bedding, check for bedbugs.
Treating Bug Bites
If stung or bitten, calm the area by applying a cold pack to reduce swelling and either hydrocortisone or Benadryl to can calm the area. For stings or bites that are painful, over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can reduce swelling and pain. Seek medical attention if you notice any symptoms beyond scratching, such as nausea, headache, rashes, fever or diarrhea. Be sure to be vigilant, keeping the area clean and avoiding scratching can reduce risk of infection.
When to Seek Emergency Medical Care
Whether you have been bitten before or this is the first time, be vigilant. If the bite starts to fester or you notice skin deterioration or a rash that concentrates along the veins, seek emergency medical attention right away. In the rare event that a severe allergic reaction occurs, time is of the essence. Seek emergency medical care. If you become a known risk for such reactions, you may be prescribed countermeasures, such as an EpiPen, to treat the emergency on the spot.
The Children’s Skin Center deals dermatology issues that affect your whole family – from pediatric care to cosmetic procedures. If you or your child have a skin concern or you need an annual check-up, call the Children’s Skin Center today at (305) 669-6555, or book a consultation online.