Summer Bug Bites & Allergies

Summer Bug Bites & Allergies

Summer brings all the awesome stuff – sunshine, vacations, outdoor playtime, and long days to enjoy it all. That said, summer’s also the time for bugs, and with those pesky little critters comes the potential for summer bug bites and allergic reactions.

What Happens When You’re Bitten?

The most common bug bite comes from a mosquito, and most of us have a similar reaction where our skin gets a little swollen around the bite mark and then gets itchy.

Why does this happen? When mosquitos bite, they draw out blood while injecting some of their saliva, which contains an anticoagulant and proteins. These proteins are unfamiliar to our bodies, so our immune system releases histamine and sends white blood cells to the area. It’s the histamine that causes the itchiness, inflammation and swelling from those annoying bites!

Different Types of Bug Bites

summer bug bites and allergiesMosquitos are the bugs we’re most familiar with when it comes to irritating bites, but there are a few others to be aware of. It’s important to know the difference between these types of bites so you know whether you need to seek medical attention or treat the bite at home.

  • Bees and Wasps – while these aren’t technically bites, these stings cause similar reactions. A bee sting will remain in your skin after an attack, whereas a wasp sting will fall out, but both cause redness, inflammation, and often pain around the sting site. Bee and wasp stings are more likely to cause anaphylactic reactions than any other bug bite.
  • Black Flies – these are found almost anywhere in North America and tend to hang around bodies of water. Their bites cause itchy, red welts that can range from small swellings to golf-ball sized bumps!
  • Ticks – more common in wooded or trail areas, these little bugs like people and our four-legged friends. While most tick bites are harmless (and may have no reaction symptoms), they can cause rashes, pain, or blisters for those with an allergy, and can also transmit tick-borne diseases or Lyme disease. If you experience unusual symptoms after a tick bite, you’ll need to seek medical attention right away.
  • Spiders – while most spider bites aren’t poisonous, they can still cause itchy red bumps that go away within a few days. However, if you are bitten by a poisonous spider or have an allergic reaction, you might also experience a rash, pain, muscle pain, or cramping, and you should seek medical treatment immediately.

Allergic Reactions

While most of us experience irritation, redness, and swelling for a bug bite or sting, there are some people who have a far more serious reaction – an anaphylactic reaction is an over-release of chemicals that puts the person into shock. Symptoms include:EpiPen

  • Trouble breathing
  • Hives or swelling
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Hoarse voice
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Cardiac arrest

Most people at risk of this type of reaction carry an auto-injector (e.g. an EpiPen) so that, if they go into anaphylactic shock, they can give themselves an injection of adrenaline to control their symptoms. It’s also important to make sure that person seeks professional medical help as soon after the reaction occurs as possible, so that they can be monitored and checked for follow up symptoms or even a second reaction.

ePACT TIP: If your kids are going to camp or summer programs, make sure that staff are aware of any allergies to bug bites, and that your little ones carry, and know how to operate, their auto-injector.

How to Prevent Bug Bites

While it’s difficult to completely avoid bug bites or stings, there are some things we can do to prevent them as much as possible. Generally, avoid walking barefoot in grass and drinking from open soft drink cans, and review some specific tips for each kind of bug:

  • Mosquitos
    • Stay inside while they are most active (dawn and dusk)
    • Wear long sleeves and pants if you have to go outside
    • Use bug repellants with DEET (avoid use of these products on young children)
  • Bees and Wasps
    • Avoidance is key with these guys (insect repellant doesn’t work)
    • To avoid wasps, stay away from garbage areas where they tend to gather. To avoid bees, wear light clothing, don’t use scented shampoos or perfume, and stay away from flowering plants
    • If either of these is flying near you, avoid the temptation to swat at them as sudden movements can make them sting
  • Black Flies
    • Wear long sleeved tops and pants to guard against bites (black flies can’t bite through clothing)
    • Avoid wearing dark colours (black, blue, purple or brown)
    • Use bug repellants with DEET
  • Ticks
    • Wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed shoes if you’re walking through trails and woodland
    • Tuck your shirt into your pants and roll your socks over the bottoms of your pants for extra protection
    • Check your body and clothing after you’ve spent time outside (and do the same for pets too!)

For a complete list of prevention tips and bite treatments, check out “How to Treat and Prevent Insect Bites this Summer” from Reader’s Digest.

While bug bites can be a pain, they shouldn’t ruin your summer!  We hope that these tips will help to prepare yourself and your family so that you can minimize the itchiness, scratching and potential allergic reactions, and focus on the fun!

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