Friday, June 24, 2011

Darn Pesky Insects!!

One of the funniest movies I have ever seen is called Pure Luck, with Martin Short and Danny Glover.  In this movie, anything that can go wrong does.  There is one scene where Martin Short sits on a bee.  He has stated earlier that he is allergic to bee stings.  He gets stung, and begins to swell up.  While this depiction in the movie is incredibly funny, allergic reactions to insect stings are not.

Summer time is the time to spend outside.  People go camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, picnics, or just working out in the yard, cutting grass or growing gardens.  People aren't the only ones who like to live outside.  There are millions of insects around, and many of them like to bite unsuspecting humans.  Some of these pesky critters carry viruses and diseases and here are a few to look out for and some precautions you can take.


We can thank these blood suckers for spreading the dangerous West Nile Virus.  In 2007, 115 deaths were attributed to this virus.  The people most at risk are those over 50, and young children, and those with compromised immune systems.

Signs of West Nile:
  • Severe headaches
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches, pain, stiffness

These symptoms usually occur between 5 and 15 days following a bite, and if you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeve shirt when outdoors.
  • Make sure all of your window screens fit tightly and are in good repair.
  • Use insect repellant
  • Empty buckets, cans, and other receptacles to prevent water from collecting.
  • Cover wading pools, but take care to drain water that may collect on pool covers.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs. When they are not in use, keep pools empty and covered.
  • Change water in bird baths every three or four days.
  • Keep roof gutters clear and draining properly.
  • Report standing water to your local health department.

For more information see

Wasps or bees

Some authorities regard wasps and bees as more dangerous in North America. The primary danger is to those who are allergic (or turn out to be allergic) to their stings. Repeated stings can also be dangerous to non-allergic individuals (especially the very young or old).  Many stings at once can even lead to death.  If you are stung, or see someone stung, here are some tips:

Have someone stay with the injured person to be sure that they do not have an allergic reaction.  Signs of allergic reactions are:

  • Hives (raised itchy bumps on the skin) and itching all over the body
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat or both
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath or other difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain

Wash the site with soap and water.

Remove the stinger using gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area.  A piece of tape over the stinger will also help remove it.

  • Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers.
  • Apply ice to reduce swelling.
  • Do not scratch the sting as this may increase swelling, itching, and risk of infection.
  • May take ibuprophen for pain and benedryl for itching.

People with known allergies will need to have an Epi pen for emergency treatment.  This is a shot of epinephrine that will prevent serious complications if a sting occurs.


  • Ways to avoid stings include the following:
  • Avoid known areas of concentration such as hives and nests.
  • Do not molest hives and nests.
  • Take care with motorized equipment such as lawnmowers, because they may provoke the insects.
  • If flying insects are around, leave the area and refrain from swatting at them.
  • Avoid activities outdoors with sugary drinks, brightly colored clothing, and strong fragrances or perfumes because some insects may be attracted to them.
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts because they may also provide some protection.
  • Keep outdoor dining and camping areas clean and free from garbage.
We will be covering other insects in future articles such as these depicted in this graphic:

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