Locals like to joke that it’ll soon be mosquito season in Wisconsin. While we can’t necessarily argue with that logic, Aspirus Health would like to remind you that many insects can be worrisome – and downright dangerous.
Insects like ticks and mosquitoes, especially, can do more than bite; some carry Lyme disease or the West Nile virus. Still others, such as bees and other stinging insects, can cause life-threatening allergic reactions for some people.
These tips will help keep the bugs from bugging you this spring and summer:
- Use insect repellant in wooded and grassy areas where ticks can hide.
- While hiking, stay in the center of the trail. Ticks are less likely to get on your clothes or skin. Brushing against grasses and plants along the path can transfer ticks onto you.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect yourself from mosquitos and ticks. Consider white or light-colored clothing as you’ll be able to spot an insect easier.
- Be sure you aren’t attracting mosquitoes in your own yard; watch for any containers that inadvertently capture rainwater and turn them over, or empty them frequently.
After an outdoor excursion, check your skin immediately after you leave the wooded area. If you find a tick, remove it carefully using tweezers. Don’t forget to check your pets, clothes and anything else you bring inside for ticks as well.
When you’ve been somewhere ticks live, it’s also a good idea to shower afterward. It can help remove ticks you didn’t find.
If you find a tick later on, it is helpful if you can tell a healthcare provider if it is engorged or swollen with blood. This will help determine how long it has been embedded. Generally, if the tick was attached fewer than 24 hours, the risk of developing Lyme disease is very low and treatment may not be necessary.
If you suspect the tick has been on you longer, or if it appears to be engorged, you may want to see your primary care provider. If someone is certain of the type of tick they pulled off of themselves, they do not necessarily have to save the tick. However, many patients are not 100 percent certain and in that case I do recommend saving the tick and bringing it to the clinic.
Keep in mind that anytime the temperature is above freezing, ticks can be active.
While people can be proactive against attracting ticks, bees are more difficult to plan around. If you experience an allergic reaction after a bee sting, wrap some ice in a towel and place it on the sting to help with the swelling.
If you experience a severe allergic reaction to a sting, such as trouble breathing or swelling of the face, mouth or tongue, seek emergency care immediately. For treatment of serious conditions that require immediate medical attention, call 911 or go directly to the nearest Emergency Department without delay.
Tiffany Miller is a family medicine nurse practitioner at Aspirus Rhinelander Clinic.