The Ugly Truth: 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, break skin and their venom or saliva can cause on-site inflammation, illness or even death.
Here’s a guide on how to recognize the little pests and how to treat their bites:
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, such as rodents (see photos). Because they also feed on deer, these ticks are found in deer habitats, says Thomas W. Phillips, Ph.D., professor and head of the department of entomology at Kansas State University, in Manhattan, Kan.
1 of 17 Black-legged tick (© John Kaprielian/Photo Researchers, Inc.)
Illness caused by ticks: Many types of ticks cause different diseases and rashes, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever. But one of the most notorious ticks is the deer tick. After it bites, the deer tick can regurgitate a bacterial organism called a spirochete into humans while sucking their blood. Deer tick spirochetes cause Lyme disease (find symptoms).
What to do: The longer the tick is attached to your body, the greater the chances it has regurgitated the spirochete, says Christopher Rosenbaum, an emergency physician and toxicologist at University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Receiving an antibiotic treatment within 24 hours of being bitten increases your chances of preventing Lyme disease, so it's advisable to head to an emergency room as soon as you find a deer tick on you, he says.
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.
2 of 17 Lyme disease, ring rash surrounding the bite of a black-legged tick (© Jim Zipp/Photo Researchers, Inc)
Bull's-eye rash: The dreaded bull’s-eye rash associated with Lyme disease, which has its own name (what is it?), develops, after several days, at the site of the bite. This eruption expands outward, like a bull’s eye, and often the surrounding bands alternate between clear and red. (See more photos.) The rash, which indicates the infection is spreading, can occur even after you receive antibiotic treatment, says Rosenbaum.
Additional symptoms: The bull’s-eye rash is just the first of many Lyme disease symptoms, which may also include fatigue, joint and muscle pain, headache, vomiting, meningitis, liver problems, and either slow or quick heart beats. If Lyme disease becomes chronic, the joints may swell and be painful. Because the bull’s-eye rash is consistent with Lyme disease, it’s important to seek medical treatment for it, says Rosenbaum (find out if there's a vaccine).
3 of 17 The bull's-eye rash (© Science Source/Photoresearchers, Inc.)
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 that are piled on top of each other (find myths about lice), says Phillips.
The eggs laid by head lice (find out what they are called) in a child’s hair, which hatch after a week—also need to be removed (see the life cycle of lice).
4 of 17 Head louse crawling out of hair onto a comb (© Darlyne A. Murawski/National Geographic/Getty Images)

Symptoms: The six-legged wingless head louse injects its secretions into the scalp, resulting in this symptom. Although these lice don’t transmit pathogens, scratching the rash can help create sores, which can then become hot and painful or infected. Head lice are often treated with medicated shampoos or lotions, but the best approach is prevention. (Find home remedies)
Prevention: Because children from age 3 to 10 are favorite targets of head lice, Rosenbaum advises parents to 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). 
5 of 17 Close-up of bite marks caused by a head lice infestation (© Scott Camazine/Photo Researchers, Inc.)
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, says Phillips. 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.
6 of 17 Brown recluse spider (© Larry Miller/Photo Researchers, Inc.)
Symptoms: 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, says Rosenbaum (is the bite painless?). 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: Rosenbaum advises people bitten by the brown recluse, especially the young and elderly, to seek immediate care in an emergency room for wound-healing treatment. (What kind of wounds?) The brown recluse spiders’ favorite outdoor areas are dry wood piles.
7 of 17 Wound caused by brown recluse spider (© Francesco Tomasinelli/Photo Researchers, Inc.)
How they look: Pets are not the only creatures with an axe 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 in color, with a side-to-side flattened body. (more photos) Because fleas tend to take up residence on cats and dogs, it’s important to control these insects with pet medication and flea collars.
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).
8 of 17 Flea (© Harold Taylor/Oxford Scientific/Photolibrary)
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 target 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).
9 of 17 Flea bites (© Scott Camazine/Photo Researchers, Inc.)
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: A hard worker, the honey bee gathers these components from flowers, which it then takes back to the hive (learn how they're made). Your chances of meeting up with a honey bee increase if you’re in gardens or fields where they’re foraging. Bees are extremely protective of their load and fiercely protective of the hive, says Phillips, and will sting if they sense danger. Phillips advises cautious movements when you’re in beehive territory (find out where hives are often found).
10 of 17 Honey bee (© Scott Camazine/Photo Researchers, Inc.)