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Beating the bugs; dealing with summer stings

Healthbeat

The best treatments when you're bitten or stung

WEST PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Summer is a time for beaches, barbecues and, annoyingly for many of us, bugs. While most insects won’t bother you, a few can give you quite a summer sting.

We’re not talking about ants that can ruin a picnic. Certain insects can target your skin for a nasty sting. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller offers some tips to help you beat the bugs.

Purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and other colorful plants do more than catch your attention. They also attract bees that can pack a painful sting. The reason for the serious soreness is two-fold. Commonwealth Health Family Medicine Physician Tina George, MD said, “The stinger and then the venom sac attached to the end of the stinger and it’s exceedingly painful and it causes a pretty significant local reaction.”

Remove the stinger with your fingernail or gauze to prevent the bee’s venom and toxins from spreading. After that according to Dr. George, “We recommend cool compresses and trying to keep the area nice and clean with topical hygiene.”

The same rules for bees apply to yellowjackets and other wasps unless you’re allergic to the sting. Seek medical attention for any breathing difficulty or swelling around the mouth.

Then there are those pesky pests mosquitoes. Dr. George said, “The concern is mosquitoes can carry several other diseases.” West Nile and Zika viruses just to name two which could require medical attention. Those mosquito bites can also cause quite an itch. Wash the bite area, put some ice on it and use an anti-itch cream. If you have significant swelling, consider an antihistamine gel. You’ll be tempted to scratch the itch, but Dr. George says don’t. “Scratching will cause more inflammation and likely cause more itching irritation. It will also increase the odds that it’s going to become infected.”

Summer is also prime time for ticks. While most people bitten by one won’t get sick, there’s always concern for Lyme disease carried by deer ticks. If you find one on your skin, consider yourself on the clock. “As long as that tick has been on less than 36 hours, it’s very unlikely to transmit Lyme. Not impossible, but highly unlikely,” Dr. George said.

Try and safely put the tick in a baggie or container which could help identify if it’s a deer tick and if you should see a doctor. The best medicine of all to beat the bugs is prevention. Everything from using effective insect repellents to removing insect breeding grounds or nests can reduce the risk and avoid the summer sting.

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