Worse than itching: Bug bites, stings can cause disease and allergies

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Posted: Friday, August 8, 2014 1:00 am | Updated: 3:32 am, Fri Aug 15, 2014.

(BPT) - Nearly everyone has had experience with insect bites or stings. Whether it was a mosquito bite while on a camping trip or a wasp sting while gardening, these bites can be painful, and itch for days.

A normal bite or sting will usually heal in a few days with proper care but some pests are known to carry harmful bacteria or viruses that can cause illness or trigger existing allergies and asthma. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) offers some tips on how you can avoid coming into contact with these pests:

Of all the different pests, the worst offenders are mosquitoes. They are prevalent throughout the country and can transmit many diseases through their bites. In the United States, mosquitoes spread West Nile virus, Eastern Equine encephalitis and dengue fever. Symptoms of mosquito-borne illness may not begin until three to five days after the bite. Many symptoms of these diseases are similar to a summer flu and may include fever, joint pain and body aches.

Ticks have also become a greater health issue for people. With the increasing ease of travel, ticks are spreading to new regions of the country and carrying diseases with them. The most commonly reported tick-borne illness is Lyme disease, but ticks also spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Heartland virus and babesiosis, a parasite which affects red blood cells. In many cases, the tick needs to be attached to skin for 36-48 hours to transmit the disease. Symptoms such as fever, rash and fatigue may not appear until three days after the bite.

For allergy and asthma sufferers, stinging insects like wasps and hornets can trigger an allergic reaction or asthma attack. The severity of the reaction can vary based on how much venom is injected and how allergic the person is. In severe cases, a sting can cause an anaphylactic reaction that requires immediate administration of epinephrine and treatment by a physician.

Preventing these pests from living in and around your home is one of the best ways to avoid their associated health threats. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so emptying flower pots, bird baths and tires after a storm will give them fewer places to reproduce.

Ticks like to hide in tall grass and latch onto a host as it walks by. Regularly cutting grass on your property and maintaining backyard landscaping will help keep ticks away from your home.

When spending time outdoors, you can prevent contact with pests by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants and using insect repellent. Use repellent containing at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Avoid doing outdoor activities at dusk and dawn, and check both people and pets for ticks immediately when coming inside.

Many symptoms of pest-borne diseases are similar to illnesses like influenza. Consult your primary care physician for proper diagnosis. If pests in or around your home were the cause of illness in your family, consult a pest professional to help treat for an infestation. Locate a pest control company in your area at www.Pestworld.org.

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