Summer bummers: Avoid these 3 bugs

Your Health
August 16, 2018

It’s still summertime, and with the beautiful weather and time spent outdoors, there are some bugs that should inspire caution. Diseases spread by insects are not uncommon, so it’s important to be aware of the critters around you this summer.

Dr. Stephen Sokalski, an infectious disease specialist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., shares three bugs you should be mindful of to have a happy, healthy summer.

  1. Ticks. One of the most common tick-borne illnesses in Illinois this summer is Lyme Disease, which is caused by a bacteria transmitted through the bite of backlegged ticks.

“An infection is usually seen through a skin rash, characteristically a “bulls eye rash”, forming around 80 percent of the time. This rash can be associated with symptoms such as fatigue, neck stiffness, muscle and joint pains,” Dr. Sokalski says. “If not treated, the patient may go on to have problems with their heart, muscles and joints, along with skin rashes and enlarged lymph nodes. They may also develop neurologic problems such as facial palsy or peripheral nerve disease.”

Dr. Sokalski emphasizes the importance of using insect repellents when spending time outdoors, especially through tall grass or in wooded areas. After a hike, shower and search your skin for ticks.

Remember that a tick with Lyme Disease may be as small as a poppy seed and not noticed in early spring and summer. Dogs must be treated with tick and flea insecticides regularly.

  1. Lice are parasites spread by human contact and are more common during the summer months due to the increase in temperature. Lice survive by feeding on human blood and can be located anywhere on the body. Lice produce an itching and irritable feeling, which coincides with a tickling of something moving in the hair.

“Luckily, over-the-counter remedies are available and effective in resolving the issue, but if this does not work, there are prescription strength treatments,” says Dr. Sokalski. “Be sure to take proper care of a lice infestation to reduce inflammation and potential infection due to itching.”

  1. Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by mites burrowing and laying eggs in the skin. It’s a quick-spreading infection that causes an intense, itchy pimple-like skin rash anywhere on the body.

“It is important to recognize scabies when sharing clothes, towels, bedding and other close-contact items because these encounters are more contagious than quick exposures,” Dr. Sokalski adds. “Anyone with a highly pruritic (itchy) rash that spares the face, with no other explanation, should be considered for scabies.”

Scabies can be a problem within nursing home patients but can be treated with an insecticide cream and occasionally an oral drug.

Contact your primary care physician for treatment options if you experience these “buggy” symptoms.

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