Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Bug bites

Summer is a great time to enjoy the outdoors, but unfortunately that comes with the risk of bug bites.

This week, we’re kicking off a two part segment with insect bites and stings and next week, we’ll discuss animal bites.

Meghan Kulig: First, let’s talk about mosquito bites.

Dr. Arnold: Usually mosquito bites are mostly just an annoyance and cause a minor reaction, but mosquitos can also carry diseases such as West Nile Virus.

Meghan Kulig: What about insect stings such as bees?

Dr. Arnold: If you’re stung by an insect such as a bee, first remove the stinger. You’re going to want to try to remove it as quickly as possible to try to minimize the amount of venom injected. Then wash the area with soap and water and use cold compresses to reduce the swelling. You should also watch out for an allergic reaction.

Meghan Kulig: What are some symptoms that may indicate an allergic reaction?

Dr. Arnold: Symptoms of this may include swelling of the eyes, lips, or throat, difficulty breathing, or passing out. Anyone with any of these symptoms after an insect bite needs immediate medical attention. If an insect bite causes severe swelling or pain or becomes a generalized rash, you should also seek medical attention right away. On a related note, any stings in the mouth should get immediate medical help since swelling in this area can block airways.

Meghan Kulig: How about spider bites?

Dr. Arnold: Most spider bites are not dangerous. They can usually be treated by washing the area and applying antibiotic ointment. Sometimes the area can get infected and may need to be treated with antibiotics, so if you have a bite you are concerned about, get it checked out by your healthcare provider. Bites from poisonous spiders like the brown recluse and black widow are fortunately rare in Wisconsin.

Meghan Kulig: What are some ways we try to avoid bites and stings?

Dr. Arnold: Insect repellents can be helpful. Permethrin can also be applied to clothing or camping gear, but not directly to skin. Try to wear long sleeves when possible and avoid going out at dawn and dusk which are the peak times for insects to be out. Do frequent tick checks on yourself and your children.

Meghan Kulig: Some people may wonder whether insect repellents with DEET can be used on children.

Dr. Arnold: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents should contain no more than 30% DEET for use on children. They also say that insect repellents should not be used on babies less than two months of age. For infants, you can put mosquito netting over a stroller or baby carrier.

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