Summer Insect Survival Guide

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Buzz, buzz, buzz. Just the sound of a mosquito is enough to make you start swatting, slapping, and itching. Usually, bugs and bug bites are nothing more than a summertime annoyance—but when are they cause for more concern?

Insect bites are generally harmless, but, in rare instances, a bite can result in serious problems. Wasps, honeybees, and yellow jackets cause approximately 100 deaths each year. Here are tips on how to prevent and treat a bite or sting.

Scenario: You've been bitten by a mosquito or horsefly.
Symptoms: The most common reaction to a mosquito or horsefly bite is swelling, redness, and itching in the affected area. However, some mosquitoes may carry the West Nile virus, which in severe cases, can cause disorientation, neck stiffness, sleepiness, and even death.

Survival Tip: Because mosquitoes and horseflies lay eggs in or around bodies of water, try to keep your property free of standing water. If you have a swimming pool, keep it covered when it's not in use, and use a pump to keep the water flowing. When going outside for an extended period of time, try to wear long sleeves and pants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend using insect repellents containing 50 percent of the chemical DEET. If you've been bit, try not to scratch, as it can lead to scarring or an infection. Instead, use an antihistamine cream for the itch.

Scenario: You've been stung by a honeybee, wasp, or yellow jacket.
Symptoms: A bee sting usually causes minor burning sensations, swelling, and itching. However, for those who are allergic, a sting can cause anaphylactic shock—difficulty breathing, drop in blood pressure, wheezing, and swelling, particularly in the neck or face.

Survival Tip: Most stings occur because the bee is protecting the hive. Start by staying away from hives, and call pest control if one has been built on or near your home. If you are stung, wash the area with soap and water, remove the stinger with a gauze pad, and apply a cold compress. If the person who is stung is allergic, immediately administer epinephrine injection and consult a doctor.


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