GREENSBURG – Insect stings and bites are an expected summertime nuisance.
Stinging insects include honey bees, wasps, hornets and yellow jackets. Biting insects include mosquitoes, fleas, flies, chiggers, ticks and spiders.
Insect stings usually result in a local skin reaction as a result of venom injected by the stinger. A reddened, painful area with an itchy sensation may develop that lasts about 4-5 days. Multiple stings can result in a more generalized reaction that includes vomiting, diarrhea, generalized swelling and collapse. Infection can develop from scratching. The most dangerous reaction to a sting is a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms include hives, flushing, itching, face and neck swelling, nausea, fever, and shortness of breath. Stings in the mouth and throat are of special concern because local swelling may block the breathing passages. Anyone suspecting anaphylaxis or having breathing difficulty after an insect sting should call 911 or be taken to the nearest Emergency Room immediately.
Insect bites are usually less painful than stings, and skin reactions are generally small and do not last long. Transmission of disease is more of a concern with insect bites. Mosquitoes bite more people than any other blood-sucking insect. The mosquito injects it’s saliva into the host as the bite occurs during which a virus may be transmitted that causes encephalitis. Encephalitis is an inflammation involving parts of the brain and spinal cord. Mild cases may have fever and a headache. Severe infections usually have a sudden onset of symptoms that include headache, high fever, stiff neck, confusion, tremors, convulsions (especially in infants) and (rarely) paralysis. Horse, deer, stable, sand, and black flies are some of the flies that are capable of biting. Most fly bites are painful, but short-lived. Inflammation and itching is similar to that associated with mosquito bites.
Ticks, like mosquitoes, are parasites that feed on blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Tick bites are usually painless, with little or no local reaction. However, the tick will remain attached until it becomes engorged with blood and then release its hold on the host. This may take up to 10 days. Two diseases that can be spread by ticks are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) and Lyme Disease. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is caused by bacteria that grow inside the tick and are passed on when the bite occurs. Symptoms include high fever, headache, rash, fatigue and muscle aches. It can be fatal if untreated. Lyme disease is also caused by bacteria. Early symptoms include a rash at the bite site. A rash around the bite site can occur along with fatigue and a mild vague illness, within 7 or more days. Late symptoms include arthritis, nerve and heart disorders.