Creepy Crawly Critters
It’s a warmer than normal springtime, and that means ticks, spiders and other bugs are on the loose. Here are tips from Paul Stortz, M.D., board certified family practice physician with Southside Medical Center in Bolivar, Mo., to help you avoid the itches and illnesses these bugs carry.
The warm winter and early spring has allowed a lot of people to spend more time outside. It has also allowed more insects to survive the winter. Stortz has diagnosed a few people with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever over the last few months, and has had at least one patient with Lyme disease. Both are tick-borne illnesses.
How can you prevent yourself from being bit by ticks and spiders? ”Cover yourself,” says Stortz. “Wear long sleeves, long pants, and high socks. Also wear a hat -- preferably one with neck protection. This will also protect your skin, and reduce the risk of skin cancer over the long-term.”
Stortz recommends using insect repellent and says it is important to check for ticks after being outdoors. Another recommendation includes sealing windows and doors – this will reduce the amount of bugs and spiders that get into people’s homes. Don’t forget about your pet. “It's important to also make sure your pets are treated for fleas and ticks,” reminds Stortz.
What is the worst thing you can do if you have a bite? “Most bites heal well on their own or with minimal home therapies,” says Stortz. “Remove the tick if it is still there, and watch for swelling, redness or pain. Keeping the area clean with soap and water is the best thing to do,” says Stortz. Triple antibiotic ointment twice a day also helps.
Some infections, such as Lyme disease, cause symptoms such as a rash that looks like a target, fevers and body aches. “If you do not feel well -- or the bite is not healing -- make a doctor's appointment,” says Stortz.
What is the worst thing you can do if you have a bite? According to Stortz, some topical chemicals do more harm than good. “Generally, alcohol, bleach and peroxide are not required to treat a skin infection. They often irritate the skin, slow healing time and cause more discomfort,” says Stortz.
Paying attention to insect bites is one aspect of taking care of your skin. It is a lot of fun to be active and outdoors in nice weather. With the right precautions, this is very safe. Stortz recommends the following advice:
- Use insect repellent.
- Check yourself for ticks after you are outside.
- Wear clothing to protect yourself from bugs and sun damage.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Make a doctor's appointment if things aren't healing well.