Here’s the news folks: We are all minority. Yes, no matter what race, religion, or sexual orientation we identify with, there is a species that far outnumbers us, relegating us to minority status, despite our relatively large number. That is the insect. Insects are the most diverse group of animals on this planet including over a million described species and comprising more than half of all known living organisms on the planet. So, when it comes to the attack, how are we to know which one of these antennae bearing, joint-legged, googly-eyed life forms bit us? Here is a short guide to determining which of these hexapod invertebrates sank their teeth into our skin, and what we can do about it.
Probably the most common and most annoying of insect bites, the mosquito bite is characterized by the signature itchy round pink or red bump. Although it is usually harmless, it can cause serious illnesses such as malaria and the Zika virus, which can be the cause microcephaly in infants of infected women. Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts and using an insect repellant containing DEET will help to protect from most bug bites. Antihistamines can be taken before going outside to decrease allergic negative reactions.
Biting flies are a motley crew consisting of deer flies, horseflies, blackflies, no see ums and sandflies. Bites from this gang of pests tend to be more painful and irritating than those of mosquitoes and can sometimes cause allergic reactions.
Red and Black Fire Ants
Found mostly in the South, red and black fire ants give bites, which form a small blister, or pustule that usually appears a day or two after receiving the bite itself and tends to go away within a few days.
Yellow Jackets, Hornets, Bees and Wasps
Causing fear among children and grown men alike, these winged buzzers almost never attack unless provoked. Never swing or swat at them, and don’t smash them, as this can trigger an alarm scent that may stimulate others to attack. If you feel threatened by a bee, cover your face and keep still or walk away slowly; resist the urge to run.
When most insects bite or sting, they inject a small amount of venom under the skin, usually causing a small area of swelling redness, itching and /or pain. These symptoms should resolve relatively quickly and can be eased by taking over the counter pain medicines, applying cold compresses or ice, and using calamine lotion to control itching.
Dramatic immune responses can cause significant pain and swelling over a large area of the body. These often require prescription medication, such as pednisone, an oral steroid, to fight inflammation. Seek medical health if the swelling does not get better after a few hours, or if it affects more than one-third of your leg or arm.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that spreads through the entire body. It is characterized by itching that commonly occurs far from the bite or sting, and trouble breathing. Antihistamines can slow the process, but urgent medical attention is urgent and should be sought immediately.
How are you dealing with insect bites this summer? Let us know which of these critters bit you and for family and how you handled it.