As temperatures rise and days get longer, it's natural to want to spend more time outdoors. But as you enjoy the fresh air, there's a good chance you won't be alone — many insects will be joining you! It's important to be aware of insects commonly found in the area where you live and to know how to stay safe when sharing an environment with them.
We've outlined some of the more common culprits — and the health risks they may cause — to help you avoid bites and stings.
Checking carefully for ticks and tick bites is important because they can spread serious diseases. The most common is Lyme disease, which can lead to chronic complications if not detected and treated early. Ticks also transmit other diseases, from babesiosis and anaplasmosis to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, although thankfully some are rare.
Tips to avoid tick bites
Here are some preventive measures:
- Stay away from wooded areas, tall grass and piles of leaves where moisture gets trapped.
- Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, pants and closed shoes.
- Use insect repellent.
- Keep hair tied back or tucked into a hat.
- Do a full body check and shower within 2 hours of being outdoors.
What to do if you suspect Lyme disease
A bite from these pesky insects is red and itchy, but can also carry a far greater risk. Mosquitoes can spread viruses and infections such as Zika, West Nile virus and Dengue fever.
Tips to avoid mosquito bites
The best ways to avoid getting bitten are to:
- Use insect repellent.
- Wear long clothing.
- Keep mosquitoes from getting inside the house (use air conditioning and repair window screens).
- Remove areas of standing water outdoors where mosquitoes breed.
What to do if the bite gets worse
Try not to scratch a mosquito bite, because it can become infected. If your skin starts to look red or swollen, or you experience hives or other allergic reactions, visit your primary care doctor or the nearest urgent care center, such as Temple ReadyCare.
Bees, wasps and hornets
Thankfully, getting stung from one of these insects typically does not transmit serious disease, but it's painful and can cause a dangerous allergic reaction. Most of the time, bees, wasps and hornets won't bother you unless provoked.
Tips to avoid getting stung
It's best to avoid their hives and nests, which they often build in trees, under roof eaves and attached to outdoor furniture.
What to do if you get stung
Remove the stinger by scraping a fingernail across it (never squeeze) and apply ice to reduce swelling. Anyone who is stung should also be monitored to ensure they don't have an allergic reaction.
- For serious reactions to a bee sting: Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
- For minor reactions to a sting that just won't clear up within a few days: You should see your primary care doctor or go to an urgent care center near you.