July 25, 2018

Summer Bug Bites, Be Gone – Protect Yourself from Bug-borne Illnesses this Summer

It’s summertime and we’re feeling that summer sun. You may also be feeling an itch or two from those bug bites that seem inevitable every summer. The kids are at summer camp and perhaps you’re enjoying working in the yard, family hikes or cooking out with friends and family. Enjoy summertime’s outdoor activities but be alert of bug-borne illnesses.

We spoke with Kendall Stacey, Infection Prevention specialist at Mission Health, to get her expert insight and top tips on being well and avoiding bug bites this summer.

What are the common types of bug-borne illnesses in western North Carolina?

We typically begin seeing an increase in bug-borne illnesses this time of year since the warmer weather comes with an increase in ticks and mosquitoes. The common illnesses we see transferred from ticks are Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Wondering what Rocky Mountain spotted fever is? We talked about the signs and symptoms in this blog post.

Mosquitoes can also be a major threat. La Crosse encephalitis is the biggest threat in our region due to the increase in activity at summer camps.

How can I protect myself from bug-borne illnesses?

Repellent! Choose the best repellent for you. When it comes to bug-borne illnesses, being proactive is the best thing to do. Always wear proper repellent anytime you’re going outside – whether you’re hanging out in the backyard or are being active. I recommend a repellent that has DEET or picaridin in it. If you are looking for a more holistic approach, lemon eucalyptus oil also works as a natural repellent against bugs.

Need help finding the right repellent? The EPA has an online Bug Repellent Search Tool you can use that  filters repellents based on their ingredients.

Use clothes as protection

When you’re considering a repellent to protect and cover up, also be mindful of what you wear. Your clothes can be a great tactic in addition to repellant to fight the bites. I know it’s hot outside under that summer sun, but wearing long pants or sleeves when you can and closed-toed shoes can help increase your protective measures against mosquitoes and ticks.

Pay attention to your surroundings

Not only is it important to protect your body during the summer months, you also want to be aware of your surroundings at home and when you’re out and about. Clean up any areas where standing water may be an issue. And pick up or remove even small items, like bottle caps and fallen limbs, because they can pose as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The Buncombe County Health Department’s “tip and toss” program can help you keep you and your surroundings mosquito free.

Don’t let that tick sit – debunking a myth

You may have heard that you need to either “smother” a tick or wait for it to detach on its own before removing it – but that actually isn’t the case. Once you notice a tick on you or someone else, you should carefully remove it immediately. Be sure to get all of the tick off and clean the area promptly.

Regardless if the bite is from a mosquito or tick, keep an eye on the bug bite for a couple weeks and use a healing ointment or cream. See a doctor if anything of concern arises, such as fever or rash.

Kendall Stacey is an Infection Prevention Specialist at Mission Health.

If you have concerns about a bug bite or bug borne illness, seek medical treatment. Visit with a doctor online using Virtual Clinic. Visit your primary care provider or find a walk-in clinic near you at missionmycarenow.orgIf you do not have a primary care provider, find your preferred doctor using our Provider Finder at missionhealth.org.