This could be a really bad season for mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. “Because we had a wet winter, tick populations didn’t die off as much as they were expected to,” says Nicholas Lumi, a Physician’s Assistant at the Brodheadsville Care Now office of St. Luke’s University Health Network.
Pennsylvania already leads the nation in the number of cases of Lyme disease, which is caused by bites from infected blacklegged ticks commonly called deer ticks.
You should take precautions to avoid bug bites and stings when outdoors any time, but particularly now when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found the bug population across the country has tripled from 2004 to 2016.
Not all deer ticks carry Lyme disease, Lumi says. About one in five carry the risk of transmission. But if you find a tick on you, you should remove it or have it removed. The sooner you remove it the better, Lumi says. The risk of transmission occurs after the tick is attached for 36-72 hours. If you remove it right away, you lower your risk of disease.
You can remove the tick at home, Lumi says. Use tweezers and grab the tick as close to your skin as you can. Pull straight back, he says. You also can go to urgent care to have it removed, he says. If the tick is engorged and full of blood, it’s not a good sign, Lumi says.
You might see some irritation at the site of the bite. If you notice a red bull’s eye rash, it’s likely you have Lyme disease, Lumi says. The rash can start out small and grow to the size of a hockey puck or larger. Other symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, joint pain, fever, chills and headache. “The incubation period between the tick bite and the rash showing up is one to two weeks,” Lumi says.
Your doctor can order a blood test to confirm whether you have Lyme disease, Lumi says.
Treatment is a course of antibiotics from 10 days to three weeks, depending on the antibiotic. In most cases, antibiotics cure the infection, Lumi says. However, in a small number of cases it does not. Some people require longer treatment and antibiotics that are given intravenously, Lumi says.
“We take tick bites seriously in this region,” Lumi says.
Other bugs sting, bite, too
Mosquito bites, bee stings and spider bites are also a hazard, especially this time of year, Lumi says.
You can treat mosquito bites with topical corticosteroid creams sold over-the-counter and antihistamines such as Benadryl, Lumi says. However, he says, always seek immediate medical attention if you have an adverse reaction and have trouble swallowing or breathing after a bee sting or bug bite.
“We do see a lot of spider bites, and spider bites tend to get infected a little bit more often than mosquito bites or bee stings,” Lumi says. Infections require antibiotic treatment.
Here’s what Lumi recommends to lower your chances of a bite or sting:
- When spending time in the woods or where there are lots of trees, wear pants and socks. Cover your arms, too.
- Wear a tick repellent on your skin and clothing, one that contains DEET
- Once inside, check for ticks on you and on your pets.
- Within two hours of coming inside, wash your clothes and gear that may have been exposed and dry in a hot dryer.