For many families, summertime offers endless opportunities for outdoor fun and adventure. Whether it’s a beautiful sunset hike in the woods, a relaxing day at the local pool or camping at Yellowstone National Park, families of all ages can take advantage of the summer season to make memories that will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, these outdoor excursions are often accompanied by unwelcome guests in the form of mosquitoes, ticks and wasps, to name a few. Although most bug bites result in nothing more than a brief period of mild itchiness or pain, there are cases where a bug bite is more severe and warrants a visit to the doctor’s office.
Read on to learn which bug bites cause a mild case and which require a doctor’s visit, as well as some helpful tips to ensure your summer is as bug-free as possible.
Bug bite infections and when to seek treatment
In the vast majority of cases, a bug bite will result in nothing more than one to two days of itching and redness on the bite area. While annoying, these bug bites don’t require a doctor’s visit and can be treated by an OTC antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin or Bacitracin. However, there are more severe cases that require medical attention, including:
- Bites or stings from a poisonous insect
- Bites or stings from an insect to which you’re allergic
- Bites or stings that cause a serious illness such as Lyme disease, cellulitis or lymphangitis
In the case of an infected bug bite, it is essential to see a doctor if you or your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Infection does not appear to be healing after using OTC antibiotic ointment for more than 48 hours
- Chills or fever above 100°F
- Redness that spreads from the bite area and grows bigger after 48 hours
- Sores on or around the bite area
- Pain in or around the bite area that gets worse after 48 hours
- Red streaks that extend from the bite area (signs of lymphangitis)
- If the sting or bite was in the mouth, nose, or throat
- Signs of anaphylaxis as a result of an allergic reaction to the bite or sting (trouble breathing, nausea, hives, or dizziness)
After proper diagnosis, a physician will likely prescribe a stronger topical antibiotic or an oral antibiotic to treat the infection. It is recommended to use ice packs to reduce swelling in the bite area and calamine lotion to relieve itching. In rare cases, the sores or abscesses that develop from a bug bite infection may require minor outpatient surgery to drain pus from the infected area.
Bug bite prevention tips
According to the CDC, some activities put you more at risk for bug bites, including camping, hiking, working with animals or visiting forested areas or farms. Here are some steps you can take to prevent bug bites while outdoors.
- Use an EPA-registered insect repellent that includes at least one of the following ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, OLE, 2-undecanone or PMD.
- If using sunscreen, apply insect repellent after applying sunscreen.
- Avoid using perfumes or scented soaps, as the smell attracts insects.
- Wear pants and long-sleeve clothing to limit skin exposure to insects.
- Avoid stagnant water and heavily wooded areas, as mosquitoes and deer ticks (which can carry Lyme disease) are more likely to congregate in spaces with lots of trees and brush.
- Treat bug bites in a timely manner with OTC antibiotic ointment and ice to reduce swelling.
By adhering to the above prevention tactics, you can ensure the safety of you and your family while enjoying all the outdoors has to offer this summer.
If you or your child is experiencing symptoms from a bug bite infection, stop by your nearest Midwest Express Clinic today. For clinic info or to book an appointment, visit our website.