Bug Bites to Watch Out For

See your doctor if these stings and bites get out of control.

There’s no escaping insects during the summer, even if you stay indoors. Most insect bites and stings aren’t a big deal—but some can be potentially dangerous.

This is especially true for people who have allergic reactions, which come on very quickly and require emergency medical attention. Call 911 immediately if someone has chest pain, swelling of the mouth or face, or trouble breathing or swallowing, or if he or she goes into shock after being bitten or stung.

If you’re not allergic, follow these bug-bite tips:

Mosquitoes They’re a staple of summer, and most of the time their bites just cause itchy red spots. Mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus, which is potentially serious. If you develop a fever, headache, body aches, nausea or a rash on your torso, call the doctor.

Bees, Wasps, Hornets and Yellow Jackets Unless you have an allergic reaction, these stings are uncomfortable, but not serious. Bees might leave behind a stinger, which you should remove with tweezers as soon as possible. Clean the area with soap and water and apply ice or a cold pack to reduce swelling.

Black Widow and Brown Recluse Spiders Most spider bites are only annoying, and can be treated like the insect stings described above. Two spiders can make you sick if they bite you. Black widows have a red hourglass marking on their belly; brown recluse spiders have a violin-shaped mark on their back. Black widow bites cause pain and stiffness, chills, fever and abdominal distress. Brown recluse bites cause local redness and intense pain, followed by a fluid-filled blister and a deep ulcer. If you’re bitten by either spider, clean the wound with soap and water, apply a cold cloth and get medical attention right away.

Ticks Most tick bites don’t cause Lyme disease, but you should watch out for symptoms in case they do. If you develop chills, fever, headache, muscle pain, joint inflammation or a so-called “bull’s-eye” rash near the location of the bite within 30 days, see your doctor. Lyme disease can be detected with a blood test and is usually cured with antibiotics.

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