11 Really Bad Bug Bites to Avoid,
Why Insects Crave You and How to Fight Back!
It is perhaps never more apparent that we humans share the Earth with an amazing array of insects, spiders and other creepy crawly bugs than during the spring and summer months. As soon as the air turns warm and the flowers begin to bloom, bugs of all shapes and sizes come out of hiding to make their presence known, and sometimes painfully known at that.
Often, bug bites are more a nuisance than a danger. However, certain bites can trigger allergic reactions (some life-threatening), cause painful welts and even spread serious diseases. It’s important to know which bug bites pose the most serious risk to you and your family, along with how to stay bite-free all season long.
11 Bug Bites to Avoid
Ticks bite animals, including humans, to feed on their blood, and in so doing can transmit diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease (a potentially serious bacterial infection that causes a rash and flu-like symptoms including fatigue, headache, stiffness or pain in neck, muscles and joints, fever and swollen glands), babesiosis (Texas fever), ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Colorado tick fever and Powassan (a form of encephalitis).
A tick bite can also cause tick paralysis, a condition in which neurotoxins from the tick's saliva actually cause paralysis in the body. In extreme cases, tick paralysis can also stop you from breathing.
Ticks like to live in brush and tall grass, and will attach itself to your skin or clothing as you brush past. Try to avoid walking through these types of natural areas. If you do, wear long pants tucked into your socks and long sleeves. After you walk in an area that may contain ticks, inspect pets and family members closely (ticks are most often found near the neck and scalp). Keeping your own yard well maintained, trimmed and mowed will help to keep ticks away.
If you find a tick on your pet, the completely pesticide-free and safe Flea 'n Tick B Gone can be sprayed directly onto the tick to help with removal. This natural product can also be sprayed around your yard or picnic area to discourage ticks from entering the area.
Most tick bites are painless, but you may see a bit of redness or feel some itching or burning (tick-borne illnesses typically don't start showing other symptoms for days or weeks). If you find a tick on your body, use a pair of tweezers and grab the tick's head (as close to the skin as possible). Pull straight out until the tick is removed (being careful to remove the entire tick).
After removing the tick, wash your hands thoroughly and cleanse the area with a bit of alcohol.
The sooner you remove the tick the better. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, if a tick is attached to the skin for less than 24 hours, there's a very low risk of infection.
2. Black Widow Spiders
Black widow spiders are said to be the most venomous spiders in North America, with venom that’s 15 times stronger than a rattlesnakes, according to National Geographic. Fortunately, the spiders are not aggressive and typically only bite if they’re disturbed.
Black widows, like other spiders, bite using their pair of fangs. The venom that is injected can cause achy muscles, nausea, and paralysis of the diaphragm that can interfere with breathing. While black widow bites can be fatal, this is unusual and typically occurs in young children, the elderly or those who are already ill.
If you suspect you have been bitten by a black widow spider -- the bite typically looks like two pinpricks and may be red or swollen -- you should seek medical attention immediately to get anti-venom medication.
3. Brown Recluse Spiders
Brown recluse spider venom is toxic but the bite may go unnoticed, as it feels much like a mosquito bite. However, the bite will become surrounded by a spreading blister-like rash that can eat away flesh and cause scarring and even the loss of a limb.
Brown recluse spiders live in Midwestern and South central states, and like to hide in dark spots, such as cracks, corners, undisturbed clothes, furniture or curtains. Outdoors, brown recluse spiders often hide under rocks or inside hollow trunks.
Although lice don't typically pose any serious risks to humans, they do cause an extremely annoying itch that occurs when a person has an allergic reaction to the lice saliva. If a person scratches too hard, a secondary skin infection could develop.
Lice bite humans to feed on their blood, which is why they’re often found on the human scalp. No one is immune to catching head lice, but children are most often affected because they come in close contact with each other and may share brushes, barrettes and caps. Teaching your child not to share such items may help to prevent lice.
Contrary to the popular belief that lice like "dirty hair," lice actually prefer clean, healthy scalps.
Once a person has lice, the typical treatment is to use a chemical shampoo. However, pesticide-based shampoos are dangerous and toxic to people. This is because they contain pediculicides, which are potent pesticides and insecticides designed to poison lice, but that can be absorbed directly into your, or your child's, scalp.
Because today's conventional lice treatments are both dangerous for the chemicals they contain and increasingly ineffective due to lice developing resistance to them, we strongly urge you to avoid the conventional lice treatments!
After extensive review, we highly recommend you use Lice B Gone™, a safe, non-toxic, 100 percent pesticide-free multi-enzyme shampoo made from natural plant sources. This extra-strength formula has been clinically proven to effectively remove lice and nits without harmful pesticides or irritating chemicals.
It's also important to wash (or dry clean) all clothing and bedding thoroughly. For items that can't be washed, put them into airtight plastic bags for several weeks (the lice can't survive without a human host for more than a few days). Also thoroughly vacuum all furniture and carpets.
5. Fire Ants
Fire ants are found in the Southeastern United States, and are far incredibly aggressive in their attacks. They use pheromones to communicate and attack in unison, latching on to your skin with their jaws and injecting venom repeatedly with numerous bites.
"Once the signal is given, you might get 15, 20 or even 30 or 40 bites all at one time," said retired field entomologist Homer Wilson. "They are very aggressive insects."
Fire ant stings are painful and may result in pus-filled lesions. Using a cold pack and pain relievers may help to relieve the pain. The stings may also contain toxins that can be dangerous in large amounts, or to small children, if they trigger an allergic reaction.
Fire ant bites can be treated with a medicated cream to relieve pain but should be watched for signs of infection or allergic reaction like trouble breathing or swelling. In the latter case, get to an emergency room immediately.
In the United States, fleas are typically found on cats, dogs and other pets, but they can also infest humans once they're brought indoors on a pet. Fleas lay their eggs on pets or in the pet's bedding as well as in cracks and crevices in floors. In homes with dogs, fleas are commonly found where the pet eats and sleeps and near the base of furniture. In homes with cats, fleas may be present in higher locations (tops of refrigerators, cabinets, etc.) where the cat may have gone.
Fleas bite dogs, cats, humans and other animals to feed on their blood, and in so doing can transmit diseases to humans, much like ticks. The most well-known of these diseases is the plague (in the 14th century the "Black Death" killed some 25 million people in Europe!). While plague epidemics haven't been reported in the United States since 1925, wild rodents in the western states may carry the disease and a few cases of plague in humans occur each year because of them. Murine typhus, which typically occurs in rats and mice, can also be transmitted to humans by fleas (about 40 human cases are reported in the United States each year).
Flea bites themselves are red and very itchy. On humans they typically occur on the ankles and legs. Fortunately, the fleas typically found in homes are most often just a nuisance, causing lots of itching and scratching.
Pets with fleas are typically treated with chemical flea treatments or collars. However, conventional flea and tick control products, including the popular sprays, collars, and bombs, can be extremely hazardous to pets and the person applying them--some even contain highly noxious nerve gas. We encourage you to read Double-Danger: Fleas & Ticks and their Common Treatment Products for more information.
If you're looking for a safe flea (and tick) treatment for your pets, Sixwise.com highly recommends Flea 'n Tick B Gone. Unlike the other flea and tick treatments on the market, Flea 'n Tick B Gone does not contain harmful pesticides or chemicals, such as DEET, pyrethrins, synthetic pyrethroids or permethrin, all of which can be harmful and irritating to your pet, the person applying them and our environment.
Once fleas are in your home, be sure to vacuum all carpets, floors and upholstered furniture every day for at least several weeks (dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag after each cleaning so the fleas don't crawl out). This will go a long way toward getting rid of the fleas as quickly as possible.
7. Bees, Wasps and Hornets
Although bees are not aggressive and typically won't sting unless disturbed (such as if you step on one while walking barefoot), yellow jackets, wasps and hornets can be aggressive.
Most stings result in local swelling, pain, itching and redness, and in uncommon circumstances infection can occur. In those who are allergic to the venom, however, a sting can be life-threatening.
Allergic reactions to stings are treated with epinephrine (adrenaline). People who are allergic to stings can get a prescription for a self-injectable device (Epi-Pen, ANA-Kit, etc.) that they can use to treat themselves in the event they are stung. However, more than one dose is often needed, so emergency help may still be called for.
To avoid getting stung, don't walk barefoot outside and use caution around hornet and wasp nests. Food and sweet beverages can attract these insects, so keep these items covered while outdoors and dispose of trash (in a covered bin) immediately. If you see a bee, wasp or hornet, leave it alone. Swatting or disturbing these insects will only agitate them.
Mosquitoes can be found all over the world, but because they must have standing water to lay eggs, they're often found around ponds, swampy areas, stream edges, drainage areas and other damp, wet areas.
Like fleas, lice and ticks, mosquitoes bite to feed. After landing on your skin, they insert their sharp, thin mouthpart called a proboscis into you and suck your blood into their abdomen.
After a mosquito bites you, some saliva remains in the wound, causing an immune response to occur. The bite will typically swell and itch until your immune system can break down the saliva. There is also the risk that mosquitoes can transmit West Nile Virus, a type of encephalitis that can cause high fever, stiff neck, headache, confusion and laziness/sleepiness. Though not common in the United States, dengue fever, yellow fever and malaria can also be transmitted by mosquitoes.
If you're going to spend time outdoors, wear long pants, socks and long sleeves to avoid getting bitten. Mosquitoes can bite through thin material, so you may want to spray a chemical-free (look for a non-toxic variety that doesn't contain DEET) insect repellant on the outside of your clothes. You may also want to apply it to exposed skin.
One such safe repellant is Lice B Gone -- it's a lice shampoo that contains no harmful pesticides or irritating chemicals that doubles as a non-toxic insect repellant. Some people also spray it outside to keep pests away when they're entertaining. Dusk and dawn are peak mosquito hours, so take extra precautions during these times.
Since mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water, you can reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by eliminating any standing water (flower pots, birdbaths, pet water dishes, barrels and more can all be culprits). Keep mosquitoes out of your home by installing tight-fitting screens into all your windows and doors (and repairing any holes in existing ones).
9. Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are tiny, six-legged insects that feed on your blood during the night, mostly around 4 a.m. They do so by injecting an anticoagulant that keeps your blood flowing while they suck, along with a numbing agent that keeps you from noticing.
While you could spot a bed bug during this time (they resemble ticks in appearance), during the day bedbugs hide in mattress cords, box springs and in the seams of upholstered furniture. They can even hide in the joints of your wooden bedframe or behind a picture frame, waiting to come out at night to feed.
And since most people don’t notice being bitten at the time, the easiest way to spot a bedbug is the next morning. Bedbug feces that look like tiny black specks may be left on your sheets, along with a small red blood stain.
Bedbug bites themselves typically appear as small, itchy red bumps, which may appear blister-like and swollen.
In 2009, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study noting that bedbugs are rapidly increasing worldwide. Fortunately, although there’s speculation that bedbugs may transmit more than 40 human diseases, JAMA authors reported, “There is little evidence that such transmission has ever occurred.”
More likely, you’ll experience intense itching after being bitten, and one of the greatest risks is scratching your skin and risking infection. In serious cases, allergic reactions including asthma, hives and even anaphylaxis have been reported.
The first sign that you’ve got bedbugs will likely be an itchy, red rash. If you suspect anything at all, check your home for other signs of infestation, which include:
- Small bloodstains on your sheets and mattresses
- Specks of blood behind loose wallpaper or other areas (behind picture frames, etc.)
- Insect excrement on your sheets or at the entry of common hiding places like furniture crevices and walls
- A sweet odor, which is caused by bedbugs’ oil secretions
If you find bedbugs, you’re likely going to need to hire a professional to help with the removal. This can include encasing your mattress and box spring in special covers, high-suctioning vacuuming, heat or steam treatments, and pesticides (although these are not recommended for use due to their potential to harm you and your family). Another effective option is to place infested furniture outdoors in the sun for several days or in the cold of winter for two weeks. The extreme temperatures, coupled with no food source, causes bedbugs to die.
You can also try misting your mattress and other hiding spots (walls, furniture seams, etc.) with Flea 'n Tick B Gone, which will kill bedbugs on contact yet is all-natural, making it entirely safe for you and your family.
While you’re removing the bugs from your home, sleeping in long pajamas will help ward off bites. And to help soothe itchy bites, try a natural anti-itch cream like Porter’s Liniment Salve or Quret Drawing Salve. Both will help to eliminate itching and promote faster healing of your skin, using all-natural, gentle ingredients.
Found in the Southwest and Western United States, scorpion stings can cause pain, swelling, vomiting, sweating, breathing difficulties, muscle twitches and vision problems. About 90 species of scorpions exist in the United States, with the majority residing in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.
Not all scorpions are dangerous to humans; in fact, only one species in the United States -- the Bark Scorpion -- is dangerous to humans. If you’re stung by a scorpion and experience any symptoms, seek emergency care immediately. It’s a good idea to seek medical attention anytime you’re stung by a scorpion, especially if you’re not sure of the species.
Since scorpions like to hide in piles of firewood, rocks, loose boards and other debris, keeping your yard clear of such habitat is one of the best ways to keep scorpion populations away from your home.
Although houseflies don't bite humans, they do hover around less-than-sanitary places like garbage and sewage. Houseflies "sponge" up food using a spongy part of their mouth, and when they land on your food they can leave behind typhus, dysentery, tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, cholera, pinworms, hookworms and some tapeworms.
To keep houseflies out of your home, use tight-fitting screens on your windows and keep food and garbage securely covered. All- natural Flea n' Tick B Gone can also be sprayed around your patio, outdoor gathering, picnic area or entire backyard as a safe way to repel flies (and also other insects like ants, bees, ticks, fleas and more). Simply lightly mist the outdoor area, and all types of bugs will be gone -- and it lasts for a full three hours!
SixWise Says ...
Got ants? Sprinkling coffee grounds around your house or drawing lines with chalk over where they enter will help keep them away!
You can “spanghew” – (to cause a toad or frog to fly into the air off the end of a stick i.e. to eat a bug) or if not you can more easily use the other all natural safer bug repellant… “lice-B-gone.”
Yes, admittedly both sound odd, yet both are effective ways of ridding bugs, with obviously one being less effort... unless you’re a professional “spanghewer.”?
“What do you call a male ladybug?”
How to Recognize and Treat 7 Different Bug Bites
Nearly Invisible Biting Mites Invade Midwest: Here's What You Need to Know and Do
Journal of the American Medical Association April 1, 2009;301(13):1358-1366
WebMD.com Bad Bugs Slideshow
National Geographic, Black Widow Spider