Insect and Spider Bites

Insect-and-spider-bites
Now that summer is officially here, many of us are spending more time outdoors, which often comes with increased exposure to the bites and stings of insects and spiders. Insect and spider bites often cause minor swelling, redness, pain, and itching. These mild reactions are common and may last from a few hours to a few days. Home treatment is often all that is needed to relieve the symptoms of a mild reaction to common stinging or biting insects and spiders. Take precautions when spending time outdoors such as applying appropriate insect repelant and avoiding peak insect hours. Here’s a helpful summary of the most common summer insects and reactions to their bites or stings.


Mosquitos
The most common summer insect, mosquito bites typically occur at dusk or during the nighttime hours. Mosquito bite symptoms typically occur hours or days later. Redness and itching on and around bites is common. Swelling may occur as itching aggravates mosquito bite sites. Virus infected mosquitoes can spread the West Nile virus to people, causing an inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Parasitic infected mosquitoes can also spread malaria.

Fire Ants
Fire ant bites have symptoms similar to other insect or bug bites, however, a fire ant bite is painful. Redness typically surrounds the bite forming lighter colored rings around a darker center. Runners of redness may shoot out from the bite area. Pain is present and can grow as symptoms progress. Fever, nausea, aches, tiredness and other flu-like symptoms may occur with fire ant bites.

Bees, Hornets, Wasps
Stings from bees, hornets and wasps are painful and can be dangerous to individuals who are allergic to the stings. In fact, bee, hornet and wasp stings cause more deaths than bites from all other insects and spiders.

If you are stung, check the wound to see if the stinger is still there. If it is, use a tweezers to extract it, or flick it out with something stiff, such as cardboard or a credit card. Usual symptoms include pain and swelling. Unusual symptoms can signal the onset of an allergic reaction. There are two types of allergic reactions. In the first type, swelling at the bite or sting site becomes excessive, and the patient may experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headache. The second type of allergic reaction can be life-threatening. A severe reaction can cause puffiness or swelling of the eyes, nose and lips. The tongue and throat can also swell. Breathing difficulties may develop. This kind of reaction presents a true medical emergency and you need to call 9-1-1 immediately if someone around you experiences this.

Chiggers
Chigger bites produce small raised red lesions on the skin. Bites can cause pain and itching. Symptoms may be similar to contact dermatitis or poison ivy or oak rash. Hypersensitive persons may experience swelling or blistering. Itching may cause chigger bite areas to spread and appear as a rash.

Ticks
Tick bites are usually not noticed until the bite, when redness, pain, discomfort or swelling occur in the affected area. Blisters, rash and itching may also occur. It is prudent to check yourself for ticks after spending time in wooded areas, as early removal of the tick body and head followed by thorough cleaning is beneficial. While most ticks do not carry diseases, some ticks can cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever or Tularemia. Watch for symptoms of these diseases in the weeks following a tick bite. Symptoms include muscle or joint aches, a stiff neck, headache, weakness, fever, swollen lymph nodes and other flu-like symptoms. Also watch for a red spot, ring or rash starting at the location of the bite, and consider visiting your doctor if you think you may have contracted a tick-carried disease.

Fleas
Tick bites are usually not noticed until the bite, when redness, pain, discomfort or swelling occur in the affected area. Blisters, rash and itching may also occur. It is prudent to check yourself for ticks after spending time in wooded areas, as early removal of the tick body and head followed by thorough cleaning is beneficial. While most ticks do not carry diseases, some ticks can cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever or Tularemia. Watch for symptoms of these diseases in the weeks following a tick bite. Symptoms include muscle or joint aches, a stiff neck, headache, weakness, fever, swollen lymph nodes and other flu-like symptoms. Also watch for a red spot, ring or rash starting at the location of the bite, and consider visiting your doctor if you think you may have contracted a tick-carried disease.

Spiders
There are almost 20,000 spider species, and all of them have venom. Some spider venoms are more powerful than others. Fortunately, most spiders are not dangerous because their fangs are either too short or too fragile to penetrate human skin. Spiders rarely bite more than once so multiple bites are usually caused by insects such as fleas, bedbugs, ticks, mites and biting flies.

Brown Recluse Spider
Named for its habit of hiding in dark corners, the brown recluse spider is also known as the violin or fiddleback spider because of a violin-shaped mark on its head. Usually about a half-inch long (including legs), the brown recluse has no marking on the tail end section, which is solid light brown. The brown recluse has just six eyes, rather than the typical eight eyes. Spider experts agree that the true brown recluse is native only to Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

The brown recluse spider bite usually causes some pain or burning in the first 10 minutes, accompanied by itching. The wound takes on a bull's-eye appearance, with a center blister surrounded by a red ring and then a blanched (white) ring. The blister breaks open leaving an ulcer that scabs over. The ulcer can enlarge and involve underlying skin and muscle tissue. Pain may be severe. A generalized red, itchy rash usually appears in the first 24-48 hours. Other symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and hemolytic anemia. Treatment consists of washing the wound. In case of infection, an ulcer that does not heal or a rash, see a physician.

Black Widow Spider
The black widow is a shiny, inky black spider with a large round tail segment. Only the female is dangerous to humans. Including its legs, the black widow generally measures from one-half inch to one inch in length. Red to orange colored markings, usually in the shape of an hourglass, are always found on the underside of the belly.

Black widow spiders generally live in trash, wood piles, garages and other dark places. A black widow spider bite gives the appearance of a target, with a pale area surrounded by a red ring. Severe muscle pain and cramps generally develop within the first two hours of a bite. Severe cramps are usually felt first in the back, shoulders, abdomen and thighs. Other symptoms include weakness, sweating, headache, anxiety, itching, nausea, vomiting, difficult breathing and increased blood pressure. Young children, the elderly and those with high blood pressure are at highest risk from a black widow spider bite. If a person is bitten by a black widow spider, do not panic. Wash the area well with soap and water. If muscle cramps develop, take the patient to the nearest hospital. A black widow spider bite is rarely life-threatening, although young children may be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation and treatment. Various medications are used to treat the muscle cramps, spasms and pain of a black widow spider bite.

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