If you spend time outdoors, expect company from biters and stingers. For minor bites or stings, get relief from ice, washing with soap and water, and applying creams that contain antihistamines or steroids. But you can't wash away or cover up the effects of a big sting… if it is potentially life threatening.
For starters, if you were bitten by a flying insect, move away quietly and quickly; flailing about may attract a swarm. After retreating, inspect the injury. If a stinger is still present, most likely a bee got you. Remove the stinger to stop the continued injection of toxin, and wash with mild soap and water. If you feel substantial pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, or swollen lips, tongue or eyes, this may be a medical emergency!
Beware the bugs that bugs bring. Mosquitoes and ticks are really no big deal -- unless they are infected with other organisms. Then their bites can cause you serious harm. Today, Americans have two main concerns:
First… West Nile virus comes from mosquitoes. So, buy an insect repellent that contains DEET, and spray it -- lightly -- on skin and clothing. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, mosquito netting and door/ window screens also improve your odds. Stay inside during feeding times (early morning and early evening). Stay calm if you're bitten: The chances of acquiring West Nile virus or another viral infection are extremely low. Nonetheless, be alert for symptoms including headache, confusion and fever. The symptoms may be very mild at first, but they can progress rapidly.
Lyme disease comes from ticks. Although still rare, this bacterial infection is on the rise in the United States. People who live in areas heavily infested with ticks (the Northeast, Atlantic coast, north-central and West Coast states) may be at higher risk; the most common carriers are deer ticks and western black-legged ticks. Early symptoms include a circular rash around the area of the bite, muscle aches and pains associated with mild fever (the "flu-like" symptoms), and a growing rash called erythema migrans. Effective treatment requires the timely use of antibiotics, so if you are exposed to ticks and develop unusual symptoms, don't put off seeing the doctor.
Get out there and enjoy Mother Nature, but be sensible about it….and watch for any ill effects even after you're indoors. For the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, I'm Dr. Tedd Mitchell, and this is the President's Prescription.
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