It is summer time – time for clumsy bees and biting insects. Wherever people appreciate nature, so do 6-legged creatures (even 8-legged). Courtyards, dance fields and avenues are all subject to the invasion of pungent or pungent insects (and arthropods).
For most people the injuries they inflict on humans are just a nuisance. For others, they can be life-threatening.
Here are 5 dangers to consider if you suffer from an insect bite or sting.
1. Real allergy. The most immediate danger of a bee, wasp or bumble bee sting is true allergy, an anaphylactic reaction. Many people confuse a large local reaction with an allergy. If you develop swelling, redness, discomfort and perhaps itching at the site of a MA sting nowhere else, this is a local reaction. If you develop ANY symptom in any place other than sting, this is probably an allergy. Urticaria or bruising that occurs on a part of the body away from the sting is a symptom. Breathing difficulties, fast heart rate, nausea, fainting or a general feeling of malaise are also serious symptoms. Seek medical attention immediately if any of these symptoms occur. Call 911 if necessary, especially if the start is quick or serious.
2. MRSA. Many patients identify small, red, slightly raised and slightly painful areas as spider bites without having seen a spider. Currently anything that looks like a spider bite is considered MRSA until proven otherwise. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus, causes a bacterial infection that, if left untreated, can cause serious illness, even death. If you think you’ve been bitten by a spider, call your doctor. These injuries are not caused by spider bites, they only appear to be what people think are spider bites.
3. Lyme disease. If you’ve been bitten by a tick, especially in the eastern third of the United States, keep Lyme disease in mind. This infection is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterium carried by deer ticks that can be injected into human skin at the time of a bite. The small bite wound can develop into a larger lesion that looks like a bull’s eye. Any disease symptoms that occur after a tick bite should be evaluated by the doctor. Lyme disease requires antibiotics to get rid of the infection. If left untreated, it can cause arthritis, irregular heart, nerve damage and occasionally memory impairment.
4. Local infection. Any open wound can be infected with germs that live on the skin, especially staphylococcus or streptococcus. If you’ve suffered an insect bite or a sting that seems to get worse over time, consult your doctor. Symptoms of the infection include a widening lesion, increased redness or heat in the wound, worsening of discomfort and occasionally pus. The doctor may want to get a culture from the wound to identify the infection or he may simply offer antibiotics.
5. West Nile Virus. In the United States, mosquito bites usually only cause an itchy welt, nothing more. However, the West Nile virus has been identified in each of the 48 lower states. Even then, most people who contract this viral infection exhibit minimal (or zero) symptoms. About 20% of people with infection can experience a variety of symptoms that they may or may not attribute to West Nile fever: skin rashes, headache, fever, nausea or diarrhea, decreased appetite, muscle pain, swollen glands. Only 1% develop serious infections in the brain, including encephalitis or meningitis. Symptoms of neurological infection can include fever, severe headache, disorientation, confusion, stroke-like symptoms, paralysis, stiff neck or convulsions. See a doctor if any of these symptoms occur, especially after being bitten by a mosquito.
Fortunately, for the most part, insects and humans coexist peacefully in the same environment. Don’t let the above worry you about staying inside. Keep in mind that a creature much smaller than you can do significant damage through a bite or sting, although often at the cost of its own end.
Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD