Ah, summer! Picnics, beach romps, summer camp, cookouts — and bug bites.
It’s a ritual part of warm weather evenings: scratching a red spot and wondering aloud, “What is that?” While most insect bites are just an annoyance, some can have serious and lasting consequences, so it pays to have an idea what took a nip at you during that hike. Here’s a look at eight of the more common and/or worrisome bites, as listed by everydayhealth.com.
1. Mosquito – Probably the most common summer bite, it results in an itchy, red, round skin bump. While most bites are ultimately harmless, mosquitos can carry numerous serious illnesses, including the Zika virus, which leads to flu-like symptoms for most victims, but can cause catastrophic birth defects if it infects a pregnant woman. Mosquitos can also spread West Nile virus, another flu-like illness, and malaria, which can plague victims for life.
2. Kissing Bug – Despite its name, there is nothing cute about this stinkbug look-alike. Kissing bugs hide during the day, emerging at night to bite sleeping victims on the face and around the eyes. As if that wasn’t unsettling enough, the Kissing Bug often carries a parasite that causes something called Chagas Disease. Chagas causes symptoms similar to severe flu – vomiting, body aches, diarrhea, fatigue. Worse, about 30% of Chagas victims will suffer bad complications in later years – stuff like an enlarged heart, cardiac arrest or enlarged colon.
This is a kiss you can miss.
3. Spiders – Most spider bites will result in only minor symptoms – red skin, swelling, pain near the bite. But keep an eye on that wound and how your body is reacting. A poisonous spider bite can have serious consequences, including death. A Black Widow bite consists of two puncture marks. Within hours, you could experience muscle pain, vomiting and breathing trouble. A Brown Recluse spider bite is even worse. You might feel a sting when bitten. Within hours, the bite will darken and look like a bruise or blister. Fever, chills and vomit could occur. Some victims have reactions more serious ranging from kidney failure to coma.
See a doctor immediately if you suspect you’ve been bitten by a poisonous spider.
4. Ticks – These hideous parasites can carry two serious diseases, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Lyme disease announces itself with a skin rash in concentric rings, like a target. This can appear up to a month after being bitten by a black-legged tick. But not all victims will get the rash, so you need to be aware of post-tick encounter symptoms like swollen joints, fever, and memory loss.
5. Mites and Chiggers — A spray of itchy small red dots might indicate that chiggers or mites have dined on your flesh. Chiggers are a type of mite that actually uses their saliva to liquefy your skin before strapping on the feedbag. Mites can cause scabies, which results in an acne-like rash, often behind joints, between fingers and under jewelry. Oh, almost forgot – scabies is contagious.
6. Fleas – Flea bites will be noticeable within hours. They tend to appear in groups of three or four small red bumps. Itching, rash and swelling are common. You might get some hives, too. The rash will turn white when you press on it, and may spread with time. You are most likely to get flea-bit around your ankles, armpits, waist and behind your knees and elbows.
While fleas don’t generally carry disease, they were responsible for spreading the virus that caused the Black Death in the 1300s. Just sayin’.
7. Lice – The scourge of the school year, lice can also pop up and spread like wildfire at summer camps. Lice cause small red bites that itch terribly. Scratching can lead to infection of the bites marked by rash and swollen lymph nodes. On the upside, lice don’t carry diseases. They’re just super gross, embarrassing and irritating.
8. Bed Bugs – Summer travel season prime time for bed bug infestations – and bites. If you get home from vacation and find rows of red dots on your skin, you may have shared your bed with this notoriously hard-to-kill pest. While the bites may appear anywhere, they are most common on uncovered areas like your neck, face or arms.
Bed bugs don’t carry disease but they are difficult and expensive to evict from a home. Consider this anti-bed bug protocol: When you return from vacation, leave the luggage and clothes in the garage. Immediately launder ALL the clothes you took on the trip, even the clean stuff. Leave to suitcase in the garage for several days and examine them closely for signs of infestation before bringing them inside.
Some gross and scary stuff there. But forewarned is forearmed – even in the good old summer time! Enjoy!