Summer Bummers: Tick, Mosquito and Flea Bites

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It’s one of the major bummers of summer: mosquitoes invading our barbeques, ticks looking to latch onto us during a hike or fleas jumping onto our beloved pets.

With warm weather comes insect invasions – and there really are more insects trying to get a nibble. A recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that over the last twelve years, the number of Americans bitten by mosquitos, ticks or fleas has tripled. Mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile have also significantly increased.

What’s a summer-loving Tri-State resident to do? Read on to find out how to outsmart those pesky insects and enjoy your summer to the fullest.

Ticks: The 411

Ticks are small – about the size of a sesame seed – and live in high grassy areas with a lot of leaves and underbrush. Typically, tick bites leave behind a site reaction that looks like a bullseye – a round red target surrounding the bite mark.

Ticks carry Lyme disease in their saliva. When they bite you, they can infect you and make you sick. Along with the bullseye site reaction, Lyme disease can mimic a severe virus – fever, headache, muscle and joint aches. However, instead of your body clearing it like a normal virus, Lyme disease lingers.

“Anytime you have a fever or rash after insect exposure that doesn’t go away within 24 to 48 hours, it’s best to be seen by your physician,” says Dr. Aleah Gibson, a Family Medicine Physician at St. Elizabeth. “If you’re experiencing severe virus-like symptoms and pain that Tylenol isn’t relieving, call your physician – it’s best to be on the safe side.”

The best way to prevent tick bites:

  • Wear protective clothing – long sleeves and long pants.
  • Hike in the middle of the path and stay away from high grass and underbrush.
  • Make sure to shower after being in tick-infested areas.
  • Check areas where ticks are likely to burrow – underarms, groin, hairline and skin folds.
  • Wash clothes with the hottest water the fabric can stand and dry on high heat to kill off any remaining ticks.

Mosquitos: The Summertime Enemy

It seems like just when we hit that sweet spot of summer, the mosquitos come out in full force. They can breed quickly in stagnant water – ponds without moving currents, puddles, bird baths or even low spots in the yard.

Mosquito bites are itchy, often irritating round red bumps that typically disappear after a day or two. Try to avoid scratching mosquito bites – if you break the skin, secondary infections often occur. To ease the itching, use over-the-counter topical products to help you stay comfortable.

The best way to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Wear long pants, long sleeves and socks that come over your ankle if you’ll be in an area with mosquitoes – especially at dusk.
  • Use insect repellant when you and your family are outside.
  • Treat the clothes you are wearing outside with insect repellant, especially shoes, socks and pants.
  • Shower after coming inside to remove repellant.

Fleas: Not Your Pet’s Friend

Fleas are an issue in the summer because animals are out and about more in the warmer weather. If your pet inadvertently brings fleas into your house, those pesky little creatures can jump off your pet and into the carpet or furniture to reproduce – even biting humans. Flea bites are tiny, itchy red dots.

The best way to prevent flea bites:

  • Protect your pet – treat them with the appropriate repellent. Talk to your vet if you need suggestions on what is the best repellent for your pet.
  • If you do have fleas in your house, you can use flea-specific sprays to remove them or simply sprinkle table salt into the carpet and vacuum up a few days later. This will dry the fleas out.

St. Elizabeth Physicians: We Can Help

St. Elizabeth Physicians is here for you and your family, no matter what the season. Call 1-800-737-7900 or visit St. Elizabeth Primary Care to set up an appointment with a primary care physician near you.