For many people, warmer weather in the summer means spending time outside: barbeques, the beach, hiking or biking on local trails or just enjoying the outdoors with friends and family. Keep in mind that outdoor recreation could put you in close contact with a variety of insects– and you could be at risk for bites or stings. The most common insect-related problems in Wisconsin include bee and wasp stings, mosquito bites, and tick bites. (Click here to read more.)
Bee and Wasp Stings
Stings from bees and other members of the Hymenoptera family (such as wasps, fire ants, hornets, yellow jackets and others) contain venom. For most people, bee stings cause only minor medical problems, including a small swelling that can be red, itchy or painful.
If someone is allergic, however, even one sting can result in serious complications or even death. Most severe reactions to a bee sting occur within the first hour of being stung. These severe symptoms can include hives, swelling of the mouth or throat, wheezing, nausea, chest pain, difficulty breathing or even unconsciousness. Call your doctor or go to a hospital's emergency department if you experience severe symptoms following a bee sting.
Mosquitoes are not poisonous, but they can carry disease such as West Nile virus. Scratching a mosquito bite can cause infection, so try applying hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to the bite to reduce itching. For stronger reactions, an oral antihistamine may help.
The best way to prevent mosquito bites is to reduce the amount of mosquitoes around your home. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so unclogging gutters, cleaning out birdbaths, and emptying water that accumulates in containers such as flower pots after rain can help reduce the population. Using insect repellant, lighting citronella candles and wearing protective clothing can also help prevent mosquito bites.
If you spend time outdoors or have pets that go outdoors, be vigilant about checking for ticks. Ticks are small bloodsucking parasites that can transmit diseases to animals and people, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.
Whenever you spend time in areas where ticks might live (especially heavily wooded areas), it is important to check your skin and scalp for them when you return home. If you find a tick, follow these steps to properly remove it:
- Using a fine-tipped tweezers, grab the tick as close to its mouth (the part stuck in your skin) as you can. If tweezers are not available, use gloves or a piece of paper to cover your hands. Never touch a tick with your bare hands.
- Do not grab the tick around its bloated belly. You could push infected fluid from the tick into your body if you squeeze it.
- Gently pull the tick straight out until its mouth lets go of your skin. Do not twist the tick, as this may separate the head from the body and leave parts of its mouth in your skin.
- Put the tick in a dry jar or sealable plastic bag and save it in the freezer for later identification if necessary.
After removing the tick, wash the affected area with warm water and soap. Watch the area for the next few days for any changes or signs of infection and call your doctor if they develop.
For any insect bite, if the affected area develops increased redness, warmth or pain or the symptoms do not improve after a few days, contact your primary care provider. These symptoms could indicate cellulitis, a common but potentially serious bacterial skin infection. Cellulitis can often be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor.