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Monitor Board of Contributors: Know your biting bugs (and how to protect from them)!

Last modified: 7/24/2014 12:07:50 AM
Once again, the thick of bug season is upon us. It’s hardly a joke when they say the New Hampshire state bird is the mosquito! So I thought it was time for some practical advice on insects and insect bites.

First, let’s start with the less toxic insects.

Black flies are abundant at this time of year and also the worst of the bugs to keep away. They don’t seem to mind most bug sprays and love to bite little children on the back of the neck. They also cause a lot of swelling.

Black fly bites are the most common cause of lumps or swellings on the back of the neck or the back scalp. Parents often find these bumps when combing their children’s hair. They are usually swollen lymph nodes about the size of a large pea and are often firm but mobile. These nodes can stay annoyed for weeks to months but are not dangerous in any way.

Some people say Avon Skin So Soft oil will keep them away, but it probably just traps them in the oil. The best way to avoid black flies is to come in when the sun starts to go down. For infants, put them in a stroller with a bug net.

Next, mosquitoes. They will be with us all summer and cause some people a lot of itching and swelling. There are many natural products that can be used to keep them away, and I particularly like the Burt’s Bees insect stick. You can also use regular bug spray, but for little ones it’s best to spray it on their clothing or hats. Use the natural stuff on skin.

Also they make the clip-on fans for insect repellent, but I would avoid wearing one if you’re holding a baby (who should not be inhaling aerosolized bug repellent).

A little alcohol applied to a bite might keep it from itching and swelling, and Benadryl can help, too.

Now for the dreaded tick!

There are several types of ticks out there, but the problem tick is the deer tick. Many people will get a dog tick or wood tick on them, which are mostly large and brown and white. These ticks don’t carry Lyme and are just annoying.

Deer ticks, which are black and red, can be very small and hard to see. Within hours it will get large enough to see as it fills with the blood it gets from biting us.

The best way to deal with these ticks is to check yourself and your children every 24 hours or after outdoor excursions in wooded areas or fields.

Make sure to look everywhere and run your fingers through your hair. Ticks need to be attached for at least 36 hours to transmit Lyme, so if you check once or twice a day tick and pull off any you find, you should be fine.

When pulling off a tick, it’s best to just use your fingers. Grasp the body of the tick and pull firmly back until it comes off. It’s not necessary to remove the head, just the body. The head is just what attaches the tick – it’s the body that carries the Lyme organism. Our body will clear up the mouthparts and picking at them may cause irritation or a skin infection.

If you save the tick that you pulled off, your doctor or the state may be able to identify it.

If you feel that a tick has been on you longer than 36 hours, you should contact your physician. You may be placed on prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infection with Lyme disease.

During the summer, flu-like symptoms and rashes that look odd or like a bull’s-eye may be signs of Lyme disease. Joint swelling and pain are possible as well, as is a neurological condition called Bell’s palsy, where one side of the face becomes flaccid.

Anyone with these symptoms should consult their physician. The usual treatment is a two- to three-week course of antibiotics, which will kill the Lyme organism. At this point in time, prolonged treatment with antibiotics is not indicated and can often be dangerous. My patients are children and adolescents, and they usually respond quickly to medication.

As with all things, bug season, too, will pass. The beautiful, colorful days of fall will bring an end to our yearly struggle with bugs. I still enjoy the summer, but I often do head inside at night when the bugs come out!

(Dr. Patricia Edwards of Bow is a pediatrician and president of Concord Pediatrics in Concord.)


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