Bugs and their bites

How to recognize the little pests and treat their bites.
© MSN Healthy Living // © MSN Health
Love the great outdoors? So do bugs, which enjoy summer nibbles just like the rest of us. Unfortunately, the playing field changes considerably when you're the critter food. Insects and spiders are more than just irritating upstarts that ruin those idyllic family vacations in the movies. They bite and break skin, and their venom or saliva can cause on-site inflammation, illness and even death.
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Deer ticks

How they look: The adult deer tick—also known by this nickname—has eight legs and is about as large as a tiny seed (which seed?). Females have red bellies and a black shield close to the head.

Where they live: These ticks live predominantly in this region, in forests—or in areas adjoining forests—that are home to small animals (which type?). They also feed on these animals.

Illness caused by ticks: The bugs can cause different diseases and rashes (including one that can be deadly). Sometimes after a deer tick bites, it regurgitates a bacterial organism into humans while sucking their blood (which can lead to an infectious disease).

What to do: It's best to get treatment (what kind?) within 24 hours of being bitten, so experts advise going to an emergency room as soon as you find a deer tick on you.

What to avoid: Under no circumstances should you try to remove the tick yourself, cautions Rosenbaum. Trying to burn off the tick with a match or applying rubbing alcohol to the site may adversely prompt the tick into to stream streaming more spirochete into the wound, he says (find more tick myths). One way to protect against these bites is to cover up top-to- bottom when walking in deer-tick habitats.
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Bulls-eye rash

This dreaded rash usually develops at the site of a deer tick bite after several days. This eruption expands outward like a bull's eye target, and often the surrounding bands alternate between clear and red. The rash, which indicates the infection is spreading, can occur even after you receive treatment.

Additional symptoms: The rash is just the first of many symptoms of this disease, which may also include fatigue, joint and muscle pain, headache, vomiting, meningitis, liver problems, and either slow or quick heart beats.

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Head lice

How they look: About the size of a tiny seed, the adult head louse is red-brown with six legs—all of them well adapted to grab onto the hair of young children.

Where they live: Not surprisingly, head lice go wherever the kids are—schools and playgrounds—and spread their mischief through head-to-head contact or children's clothing. The eggs laid by head lice (find out what they are called), which hatch after a week, also need to be removed (see the life cycle of lice).

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Symptoms of head lice

When these bugs inject their secretions into the scalp, it results in this symptom. Although these lice don't transmit pathogens, scratching the rash can create sores, which can then become hot and painful or infected.

How to treat: Head lice are often treated with medicated shampoos or lotions, but the best approach is prevention (find home remedies).

Prevention: Because children ages 3 to 10 are favorite targets of head lice, parents should examine their kids' scalps on a regular basis (how to do it), especially if playmates and school pals have been infected (find more ways to prevent lice).

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Brown recluse spider

How they look: The brown recluse is also known by this name because of a dark brown spot in the shape of an instrument in its head-and-chest area. Its coloring is mostly brown, with light-colored legs and an oval belly that may be dark brown or yellow.

Where they live: Located predominantly in this region, the brown recluse likes to hide and is especially fond of human homes (find more hiding places). They like dark areas, garages, closets and air and heating ducts, and are especially active nocturnal hunters.

The bites may be painless but the fangs of the brown recluse spider release venom that can turn the bite site into a severe ulcer after the bite's scab falls off within a few days. That new ulcer, which now may take months to heal, is blue at the center and surrounded by a pale ring that in turn is surrounded by a red ring (find more ways to identify a bite).

Additional symptoms: Other symptoms may include fever, chills, general pain, seizures and even breathing difficulty, if the bite occurs on or near the head or neck. (Find more symptoms.)

What to do: Experts say people bitten by the brown recluse, especially the young and elderly, should seek immediate care for wound-healing treatment. The brown recluse spiders' favorite outdoor areas are dry wood piles.

6 of 16 Wound caused by brown recluse spider (© Francesco Tomasinelli/Photo Researchers, Inc.)


How they look: Pets are not the only creatures with an ax to grind against fleas. These hard-shelled, long-legged insects—they can grow to 1/8 inch—are agile jumpers. They're dark-reddish-brown with a side-to-side flattened body (see more photos).

Where they live: Fleas are found all over the U.S. Because they tend to take up residence on pets (see which ones), it's important to control these insects (find ways to do that).

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Symptoms of flea bites

As part of their blood-sucking agenda, fleas wreak their havoc by injecting saliva into the skin. Their bites leave red marks that, if itchy, can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamine or hydrocortisone products (find home remedies).

Prevention: Fleas tend to jump off their targets on their own, but sometimes they linger. When that happens, sometimes dabbing them off with this product is the best solution. Making sure Fido is free of fleas is an important step in preventing human flea bites (find ways to prevent fleas on your pet).

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Honey bees

How they look: The honey bee, with its characteristic furry yellowish and black stripes, grows to about 1/2 inch. It also has a stinger (see more photos).

Where they live: Your chances of meeting up with this bug increase if you're in these types of gardens. Bees are extremely protective of their load and fiercely protective of the hive and will sting if they sense danger (find out where hives are often found).

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Symptoms of Honey bee stings

A honey bee's barbed stinger is connected to a sac full of venom that can act as a potent allergen in the body. People sensitive to the venom can experience symptoms that include difficulty in breathing or swallowing, elevated heart rate, swelling of the skin, mouth, throat or tongue, and an overall body rash (find more symptoms). In more severe cases, the person may experience this due to a severe allergic response, and even death.

Treatment: If you can see the stinger, pull it out (find out how).

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