woman sprays insect repellent to prevent bug bites


Buzz off! Protect yourself from annoying bugs this summer

  • Early treatment of infected tick bites can prevent Lyme disease from developing.
  • West Nile virus can be transmitted by mosquitoes and causes no symptoms in most people. But a small percentage can become seriously ill from the virus.

The summer months can be abuzz with insects. Keeping them off your back (and legs and arms) may help you stay healthy. Insect bites aren't just annoying. Some can cause lingering symptoms and potentially fatal infections.

Ticks and Lyme disease

Black-legged ticks, or deer ticks, are known to carry bacteria that cause Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and other illnesses. Lyme disease can cause severe symptoms that affect the joints, nervous system and internal organs. An expanding rash that may resemble a bull's-eye often appears a week or two after the bite. Other initial symptoms can include joint pain, stiff neck, fever, chills or fatigue.

In general, an infected tick must stay attached to the skin for 24 to 36 hours before it can transmit Lyme disease. If a tick bite becomes red and irritated with the tick attached for more than 24 hours, it would be good to call or see your health care provider. Early treatment of infected bites can help prevent Lyme disease from developing.

Mosquitoes and West Nile virus 

If you think mosquitoes pick on you more than the person next to you, you could be right. We don't know why, but it appears that mosquitoes prefer certain victims over others—people who are overweight and those with type O blood, for example. But an itchy bump isn't the only thing a mosquito can give you.

First detected in Minnesota in 2002, West Nile virus is most commonly transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. Most people infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms, but a small percentage of people will develop a more serious illness.

These symptoms may appear two to 15 days after a mosquito bite: fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph glands, vomiting, sore throat and a rash. Advanced symptoms may include brain inflammation, paralysis and coma. The condition can prove fatal. While there's no treatment, prescription medicines can control the symptoms.

Follow these tips to beat the bugs, and see your doctor if you notice symptoms of insect-transmitted illnesses.   

Bug bite prevention tips

You and your family can avoid insect bites and illnesses they can cause with these simple steps:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and closed-toe shoes when outdoors. Tuck pants into boots or socks.
  • Avoid the outdoors at dawn and dusk, active times for mosquitoes.
  • Use insect repellent according to package directions. DEET and permethrin (only for clothing application) are effective ingredients.
  • Get rid of standing water (where mosquitoes breed) near your home.
  • Check for ticks after you've been outside and carefully remove them.
  • Avoid tick territory—wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. If you do walk in the woods, stay in the center of the trails.


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