Bug Bites: Should I be Worried?
posted: Jan. 12, 2021.
BUG BITES: Should I be worried?
Even though fall is here, and the peak bug season is behind us, living in Florida exposes us to a number of pesky bugs year-round. The more time you spend outdoors, the more likely you are to come into contact with one of these pests. Most of the time a bug bite is nothing but a minor nuisance but other times a bite can send you to the dermatologist or to the emergency room. If you happen to be allergic to bites, or you have a strange reaction to a simple bite, it’s always better to have it checked out by a board-certified dermatologist to ensure a safe outcome.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
You have likely heard this phrase a number of times, but it still rings true in the case of bug bites. There are several simple precautions you can take to keep those pesky critters off your skin where they don’t belong.
If you are going into a high-risk area for bugs, always apply an insect repellant, and preferably one containing DEET provided you have no known contraindications. Questions often arise about use of DEET on children. DEET is approved for use on children with no age restriction. Also, there is no restriction on the percentage of DEET in the product for use on children.
There are several natural insect repellants available as well (e.g. citronella, 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus); however, they tend to be less effective and need to be used or reapplied more frequently. According to the product labels, some oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under the age of three. There are no restrictions for use on children under three years of age for certain insect repellent products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus as their sole active ingredient at concentrations of 30% or less.
Tips for Applying Insect Repellants
- Read and follow the label directions to ensure proper use; be sure you understand how much to apply.
- Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing. Do not use under clothing.
- Do not apply near eyes and mouth; apply sparingly around ears.
- When using sprays, do not spray directly into face; spray on hands first and then apply to face.
- Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- Do not spray in enclosed areas.
- Avoid breathing a spray product.
- Do not use it near food.
Other Insect Repellant Safety Tips
- Check the label to see if there are warnings about flammability. If so, do not use around open flames or lit cigarettes.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin and clothes with soap and water.
- Do not use any product on pets or other animals unless the label clearly states it is for animals.
A good guide for effective repellants can be found online in a list published by the The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention by going to the following link https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you.
Another import preventative measure you can take is making sure you are wearing protective clothing, especially if you will be doing any camping or hiking. You can help keep ticks away from exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and high boots. Make sure to tuck your shirts into your pants, and your pants into your socks to avoid gaps in your clothing where ticks or other bugs can enter if you are going to be in a high-risk area with tall grass or shrubs. Wearing light-colored clothing can also help you see ticks more clearly. For those overnight outdoor adventures, a sealed tent or a bed net that is tucked under the mattress will help keep you safe as you recharge for the day ahead.
Treatments you can try at home
If you happened to get stung or bitten by something in the United States, it could be any number of insects including stinging or venomous hymenoptera (e.g. bees, wasps, fire ants), non-venomous insects (e.g. mosquitos, chiggers, fleas), as well as ticks, mites, spiders, scabies, and body lice. With so many different biting or stinging bugs it’s no wonder why bug bites are so common.
Most bites are not severe and do not lead to an allergic reaction. For minor bug bites, there are several things you can try at home to help with discomfort. You can apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel, apply over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream or ointment three times daily for 2 weeks, take an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl, or take an over-the-counter pain killer, such as acetaminophen. These treatments can help relive mild inflammation, pain and itching.
When to seek medical attention
For bites that are not improving with home treatment, multiple bites, bites that lead to blistering, or bites that leave a doughnut-shaped rash, an evaluation by a board-certified dermatologist is warranted.
The vast majority of bug bites can safely be treated at home or by your dermatologist, but there are times when you should call 911 or go straight to the emergency room right away. If you have swelling in your face, lips, tongue, or throat, you have a rapid heartbeat, you have a severe rash, or you have a fever or vomiting, please call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room immediately as this could represent an allergic or life-threatening reaction.
The providers here in our dermatology clinic specialize in treating non-threating bites and unusual rashes and we are happy to help you discover the best treatment plan for you. You can schedule a consultation with one of our providers at Feinstein Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery by calling (561) 498-4407.