5 Types of Bug Bites
Bug bites are never any fun, but sometimes a few itchy lumps are the price you’ve got to pay for an afternoon spent hiking in the woods or digging in the vegetable garden. But when do stings go from mildly annoying to a serious medical concern? Here are some of the most common bug bites you may experience in the U.S. and the accompanying symptoms that signal when it’s time to visit the doctor. Of course, seek professional care immediately in the advent of an emergency — it’s not worth the risk when it comes to your health, so play it safe if you’re truly worried.
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Bedbugs are more of a nuisance than a threat to your health, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Aside from being extremely itchy, an infestation in your mattress will keep you up at night and cause you to miss out on valuable sleep. Bedbug bites are small, red bumps that look similar to mosquito bites. Often you’ll notice them in a straight line on your back, stomach, or legs. You can treat bites with a cortisone cream or another anti-itch remedy — the bigger challenge is getting the insects out of your house.
Bee and Wasp Stings
If you’re stung by a bee, the CDC advises scraping the stinger away as soon as you can. In most cases, you’ll end up with a painful red welt that may have a white dot in the center. Wasps, including hornets and yellow jackets, don’t leave stingers behind, so they can sting you more than once. If you’re allergic to the venom, carry an epinephrine auto-injector, like an EpiPen, with you in the advent of a sting. Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if your throat begins to swell and you have difficulty breathing. If you’re not allergic but you’ve been stung many times — say, because you accidentally stepped on a nest — you may experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, fever, and vertigo because of the venom building up in your body, and, according to the Mayo Clinic, you should seek medical care.
Scabies is actually more than just bug bites. It’s a parasite infestation caused by microscopic mites. The female burrows into your epidermis to lay her eggs. Yuck! Scabies causes an insanely itchy, pimply rash at the infestation site and resembles the worst acne breakout you’ve ever had. According to the CDC, scabies spreads like wildfire, so it’s important to get treated right away if you think you have it. Your doctor will likely prescribe a lotion that kills the mites and their eggs. The only way to get scabies is from other humans (no blaming it on your furry friends), so if you do have scabies, get everyone in your home checked, too.
Most of us expect to get at least a few mosquito bites each summer. They’re itchy, annoying bumps that go away within a few days — typically no big deal. However, mosquitoes do carry a handful of diseases in the United States. West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne illness reported in all lower 48 states, is also accompanied by fever-like symptoms (though many people infected won’t get sick at all). The bottom line is that if you’ve been bitten recently and start to develop a fever or other symptoms, make a doctor’s appointment right away.
Ticks are infamous for carrying Lyme disease, but they can also spread other diseases like southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The latter produces a rash of small, pink splotches typically beginning on the wrists, arms, and ankles. To further complicate matters, the CDC says only 70-80% of people infected with Lyme disease develop a bull’s-eye rash, which looks almost identical to the lesion caused by STARI. If you discover a tick on you, remove it quickly with tweezers. Visit a doctor if you develop fever, chills, or a suspicious rash within a few weeks of removing a tick, according to the CDC. Tick-borne illnesses can be difficult to diagnose, however, because symptoms vary widely and many people who get infected never see the tick in the first place. Make it a habit to check yourself after all outdoor activities.
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