April showers bring May flowers, as well as bringing bugs such as bees, black flies, mosquitoes, and ticks! You may have forgotten about these little buggers over the winter season, but rest assured they will be back soon. Most New England natives are familiar with the buzzing sound of our flying friends, but it’s important to remind yourself about the prevention and treatment of bug bites and stings. Fortunately, they are usually nothing more than irritating, but it is possible for them to cause more serious reactions.
- Swelling at bite site
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing or tongue swelling
*If you experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, seek medical care immediately.
Bugs, insects, or creepy crawlers tend to congregate where there is standing water. To decrease their population growth (which seems exponential at times) empty kiddie pools, water buckets, and rain gutters. Another tip is to avoid swamps, marshes or bodies of water. If possible, wear long pants and tuck them into your shoes. Spraying bug spray, YAYA Organic Tick Ban or Deet on clothes can help prevent bugs from biting.
Below are some specific tips regarding prevention, symptoms, and treatment of a few of New England’s most well-known creepy crawlers!
Buzz .. buzz .. buzz .. sting! In New England, getting stung by a bee is a rite of passage – most everyone in the Northeast has a, “You won’t believe this one time I got stung by a bee,” story. To avoid a sting, be cautious around areas where bees congregate such as trash cans, woodpiles, attics, decks, roof overhangs, etc.
Knowing how to react when a bee lands on you may prevent a sting:
- Freeze! Resist the urge to yell or make sudden movements – these actions frighten the bee and make it likely to sting.
- Breeze! Gently blowing on the bee can encourage it to take flight, just be careful not to get your face too close to the bee.
Bee stings are common, making it important to be able to discern between ordinary and severe reactions to stings. Most of the time, symptoms are minor and include pain, minor swelling and redness around the sting area. Sometimes, reactions include extreme redness and broader swelling that can spread over your limb (example: your finger gets stung, and your entire hand swells). Severe allergic reactions from bee stings include hives, trouble breathing or swallowing, and swelling of the face, throat, or tongue. Seek emergency care immediately if you experience these symptoms after getting stung.
Black flies are the hallmark of springtime in New England – they come around in late spring, a sign that summer is right around the corner! Studies have shown that black flies are more attracted to dark colors than light ones, dressing in darker hues can aid in the prevention of bites. Mint, spearmint and peppermint deter black flies – add a few drops to your laundry detergent or skin before headed outside! Mostly, black fly bites are nothing more than irritating. Alternatively, some people can suffer more adverse reactions to black flight bites called black fly fever. Symptoms include headache, nausea, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.
Lawn treatments, citronella candles, mesh canopies … People will do just about anything to protect themselves from mosquitoes and their bites. Although mosquitoes can carry life-threatening diseases, they are most widely known for the high-pitched wining you hear right before getting bitten! It is highly unlikely for mosquitoes in the Northeast to carry mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus and Zika Virus, but it is not impossible.
Ticks are more active in spring, summer and fall but can be around any time the temperature is above freezing. One telltale sign that you have been bitten by a tick, and that you are in the early stages of Lyme disease, is the erythema migrans rash, more commonly referred to as the bullseye rash, that can sometimes occur 3 to 30 days after being bitten. Thousands of cases of Lyme disease are reported in the three northern New England States each year. As a matter of fact, Vermont and Maine have the highest rates of Lyme disease compared with any other state, while New Hampshire ranks in the top ten. Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include the bullseye rash, fever, joint pain and fatigue. Other serious symptoms may include facial paralysis, chest pain and shortness of breath.
If you have been bitten by a tick, it is important to promptly remove the tick and seek professional medical advice regarding your risk of contracting Lyme disease. Oral antibiotics are often prescribed to prevent Lyme disease after a bite.
All ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care centers are available seven days a week to assist with proper tick removal and treatment. Our team of medical professionals are also there for you to determine your risk of contracting Lyme disease, and offer oral antibiotics if indicated.
Treatment for bug bites and stings:
- Remove the stingers using your fingernails or tweezers (if applicable).
- Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain.
- Gently wash the affected area with warm soap and water.
- Utilize topical steroid ointments or oral antihistamines to relieve itching.
- Refrain from touching the bite site, this could increase your risk of infection.
Minor bug bites and stings can usually be taken care of at home with a mild pain reliever, band-aid, and hydrocortisone cream. Those with mild to moderate reactions resulting from a sting or bite are encouraged to seek treatment at your nearest ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care location. ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care is ready to help you with insect bite and sting needs, from infection treatment and irrigation to stinger and tick removal.