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Bites, Stings and Sunburns

Summertime brings barbeques and outdoor activities as well as outdoor insects. Along with the insects come bites and stings. So what do I do when I get bitten or stung? How do you know if you need to go to the doctor for the bite? Read this article to learn what to do in those instances.

Tick bites
Ticks are very common in wooded areas in this part of Nebraska. They come in many different varieties and carry different diseases that may be transmitted to humans. Typically, a tick needs to attach and feed before it can inject any infectious material into your body so if it is not attached, it can't cause an illness. If you notice that a tick is attached to your skin, do not squeeze or irritate the tick. Do not apply alcohol, petroleum jelly, matchsticks, cigarettes, or any other abrasive material to the tick. Use tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull back gently with even pressure and the tick should release on its own. If there are small mouth parts that are not removed, do not try to remove them on your own. If a large portion of the tick is not removed from the body, seek care from your primary care provider for proper removal. Wash well with soap and water and wash hands well. Make note of the type of tick it is for future reference if necessary. If signs or symptoms of infection occur, seek medical care from your primary care provider.

Bee/wasp stings
Bee and wasp stings are very common in the summer as well. If you have shown a previous allergic or anaphylactic reaction to bee stings, contact your medical provider about keeping an epinephrine pen on hand. Talk to your healthcare provider about proper use and if it is necessary for your allergy. If you have not had any previous reaction to a sting, no immediate medial attention is generally necessary. If the stinger is still present, gently remove it by scraping it away from the surface. If it is underneath the skin, do not attempt to remove it and go to your medical provider for removal. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. If at any time you develop swelling of the lips and tongue, difficulty breathing, or hives of the entire body, seek emergency care. Most stings will have localized swelling and redness as well as discomfort. Initially, ice may be beneficial. Do not apply creams or salves initially after a sting. You may use over the counter antihistamines such as Benadryl or Zyrtec for itching and swelling. After 24 to 48 hours, examine for signs of infection such as spreading redness, purulent drainage, fevers, red streaking from the wound site or increasing swelling. Seek care from your medical provider if you have concerns about a possible infection or allergic reaction.

Other insect bites
Many times we do not see the offending insect that has bitten us but we notice the itchy, red bumps that typically occur. These spots may be caused by bites from mosquitoes, flies, spiders, chiggers, or many other insects. Most of these bites will get better spontaneously on their own. Make sure you wear bug spray with DEET to prevent these bites. When they do occur, wash the area gently and thoroughly with soap and water. If you are having a lot of itching, oral or topical antihistamines such as Benadryl or hydrocortizone cream may be beneficial for symptom care. Most bites will get red and swollen, and the bites typically go away more quickly if you resist the urge to scratch them. If you notice any drainage from the bites, increasing swelling, warmth, red streaks, fevers, or a black area in the center of the bite, you need to be evaluated by you primary care provider for the possibility of infection.

Sunburns are very common (and very painful) in the summer months. It is important to wear sunscreen as was discussed in the previous article. If a sunburn does occur, the most important thing is to get out of the sun and limit your exposure as soon as the burn is noticed. You may put cool water or cool cloths on the area for discomfort. Do not apply any over the counter creams or gels for the first 24 hours after a burn as this may trap heat in the burn and make it worse. Most sunburns are first degree or mild second degree. This means that they are generally red, painful, and occasionally will have blisters present. These burns can be treated symptomatically. If you have areas that are white and waxy in color and painless or if signs of infection such as drainage and fevers are present, seek care from your medical provider.

If you have any questions or concerns about a bite or sunburn that you may have sustained, please contact your medical provider today and visit about your symptoms. The most important thing is prevention, using sunscreen and insect repellents to avoid possible side effects. Stay safe and have a fun summer!

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