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Fleas and Ticks and Mosquitoes, Oh My! Avoiding and Treating Bug Bites in the Summer

8/7/2013

As we approach the end of summer, many will try to enjoy the last few weeks of warm weather and outdoor fun. Unfortunately, many insects also enjoy warm weather. Most flying pests are harmless, but some bugs have more serious bites that require protection. This not only wards off a serious case of itching, but may also prevent painful stings and blood-borne diseases sometimes carried by fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

Although many consider fleas a worry only for pets, fleas do bite humans. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), flea bites occur most often around the waist, ankles, armpits, and in the bend of the elbows and knees. Preventing flea bites is the best way to deal with them. Getting rid of fleas once they’ve settled in can be challenging and may require chemical sprays and take several home treatments. Occasionally, professional treatment of the home may be required. To treat itching associated with a flea bite, consider applying an over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, or for severe itching, a doctor may prescribe an oral antihistamine.

Ticks are tiny, making them difficult to see on skin, clothes or toys. Ticks are present year round, but it’s especially important to check for them daily during warmer months when we spend more time outdoors. Ticks are often found in wooded areas, and in and around tall vegetation. To minimize tick exposure, wear protective clothing and use chemical repellent.

If bitten, the proper removal of the tick is very important. Read the NIH’s “How to Remove a Tick” for more information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages anyone bitten by a tick to watch the bite to check for signs and symptoms of Lyme disease.  Initially, there may be a small bump or redness at the bite site for 1-2 days. This is normal and does not mean Lyme disease is present.  Lyme disease symptoms are:

  • A red, expanding rash that looks like a bulls eye (this occurs in up to 70 to 80% of cases of  with Lyme disease)
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Any of these symptoms can appear three to thirty days after a tick bite, so it is important to watch children carefully to see if any of these symptoms develop.

Mosquitoes are another summer pest whose bites should be avoided. A single mosquito bite can infect a person with West Nile virus. This virus can develop into very serious conditions such as encephalitis or meningitis. The CDC strongly recommends using insect repellent, a list of which can be found at www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html, and wearing long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors if weather permits. There are no medications to treat or prevent West Nile. Most people infected will have no symptoms but about one in five people develops a fever and other symptoms.

Finally, while most children typically have mild reactions to insect bites or stings, some are allergic to certain insect venoms. A bite or sting on an allergic child can cause severe symptoms requiring emergency treatment. TRICARE covers services and supplies required for the diagnosis and treatment of allergies by TRICARE-authorized providers. For more information, visit www.tricare.mil/allergy. TRICARE also covers emergency care for conditions needing immediate medical care. Visit www.tricare.mil/Emergency for more information.

Last Updated 4/15/2014