Prevent Serious Injuries From Bug Bites

Warm weather and sunny days mean more bugs. Most bugs are cold-blooded, so they semi-hibernate in the winter months. When the weather warms up, the environment is right for bugs to come out to enjoy the flowering plants and breed new life, leading to an increased risk of bug bites. Bites from mosquitos, ticks, spiders, and bees can cause serious injury and result in infection. 

Mosquitos

Mosquitos can carry Zika and West Nile Virus. Symptoms usually begin two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Common symptoms include:

  • Mild fever
  • Rash
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Red eyes (conjunctivitis)

Tips to fight the bite:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a hat to cover as much skin as possible when working or enjoying the outdoors.
  • Wear insect repellents that have at least 20% DEET.
  • Eliminate sources of standing water such as buckets, cans, and barrels as this can be a breeding ground for mosquitos.

Ticks

Ticks live in vegetated areas, so working and recreating outside increases your exposure to tick bites. You might experience these symptoms when bitten by a tick:

  • Pain or swelling 
  • A rash
  • A burning sensation at the bite site
  • Blisters
  • Difficulty breathing, if severe

Preventing tick bites is the best way to avoid a tick-borne illness. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid wooded areas with high grass.
  • Wear long pants and a long-sleeve shirt when walking in the woods or grassy areas where ticks are common.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Use tick repellent containing at least 20% DEET.
  • Treat clothing and gear with a product containing 0.5% permethrin.
  • Check skin closely after being in tick-prone areas.
  • Take a shower within two hours of being outdoors.

Spiders

All species of spiders have venom. However, a few are more toxic than others. Most bites are not serious because the spider’s fangs are too short to penetrate our skin, and they rarely bite more than once. If you notice multiple bites, other insects like ticks or fleas might be the cause.

The recluse spider can be identified by the violin-shaped mark on its head and as one of few species to have only six eyes instead of eight. If bitten, the wound will appear similar to a bull’s-eye. Seek medical attention.

The black widow, with its distinctive red to orange-colored markings, has a shape like an hourglass found on its stomach. Black widows live in trash, woodpiles, garages, and other dark places. Their bite appears as a circular target, and often muscle pain and cramps develop within two hours.

Common symptoms of spider bites:

  • Severe cramps are usually felt first in the back, shoulders, stomach, and legs.
  • Weakness, sweating, headache, anxiety, itching, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and increased blood pressure.

Here are some tips on how to treat a spider bite:

  • Cleanse the wound. Use soap and water to clean the wound and skin around the spider bite.
  • Slow the venom’s spread. If the spider bite is on an arm or a leg, tie a snug bandage above the bite and elevate the limb to help slow or halt the venom’s spread. Ensure that the bandage is not so tight that it cuts off circulation in your arm or leg.
  • Use a cold cloth at the spider bite location. Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice.
  • Seek immediate medical attention. Treatment for the bite of a black widow may require anti-venom medication. Doctors may treat a brown recluse spider bite with various medications.

Bees

Bee stings can produce different reactions, ranging from temporary pain and discomfort to a severe allergic reaction. Having one type of reaction doesn’t mean you’ll always have the same reaction every time you’re stung or that the next reaction will necessarily be more severe. Most of the time, bee sting symptoms are minor and include:

  • Instant, sharp burning pain at the sting site
  • A red welt at the sting area
  • Slight swelling around the sting area

A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to bee stings is potentially life-threatening and requires emergency treatment. A small percentage of people who are stung by a bee or other insect quickly develop anaphylaxis. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Skin reactions, including hives and itching, and flushed or pale skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the throat and tongue
  • A weak, rapid pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of consciousness

People who have a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting have a 25% to 65% chance of anaphylaxis the next time they’re stung. Talk to your doctor or an allergy specialist about prevention measures such as immunotherapy (allergy shots) to avoid a similar reaction if you get stung again. Additional actions you can take:

  • Avoid bees & beehives if not properly protected.
  • If you have a bee allergy, notify someone. If you work outdoors and know you are allergic to bee stings, tell your employer so they can adequately react in case of an emergency.
  • Be prepared. Keep emergency medicine available. If you’re an employer, ask your employees about bee allergies, but keep in mind they might not feel comfortable sharing this information. Have a plan in place for contacting emergency personnel and directing them to the job site for this type of emergency.
  • Call the professionals to remove swarms that have settled. Never try to remove bees that congregate in one area.
  • If stung, do not remove the stinger with your fingers by pulling on it.  That will only cause more venom to leave the stinger and enter your body. Use the edge of a credit card, nail file, or something similar to scrape the stinger off.
  • Seek prompt medical care if you have multiple stings from a swarm of bees.

In most cases, bee stings do not require a visit to your doctor. In more severe cases, you will need immediate care. Call 911 or other emergency services if you have a severe reaction to a bee sting that suggests anaphylaxis, even if it’s just one or two signs or symptoms. If you were prescribed an emergency epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others), use it right away as your doctor directed.

Make an appointment to see your doctor if bee sting symptoms do not go away within a few days or you have had other symptoms of an allergic response to a bee sting.

This information was obtained from the Mayo Clinic and Health Line.

Lisa Raffetto
Lisa Raffetto
Lisa joined ICW Group in 2018 and provides risk management services in Northern California. She assists clients across a broad spectrum of industries including agriculture, construction, healthcare, warehousing and distribution, transportation, and manufacturing. Lisa’s career has been broad, with experience in Environmental Science and Quality Management. Lisa earned her B.A. in International/Environmental Science, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration - Sustainable Enterprise. She has also obtained her Associate in Risk Management (ARM) designation.

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