06-08-06 Your Health
Most bug bites are no more than an itchy nuisance, something to treat with witch hazel, calamine lotion or cortisone-type creams.
"But, they can also be dangerous. Bugs are what we call vectors, vectors of disease. They can make you sick," said Elizabeth Whelan of the American Council on Science and Health.
The main summertime bugs are mosquitoes, ticks, stinging bees, yellow jackets, wasps and hornets. Mosquitoes can carry several viruses that can cause encephalitis, inclluding West Nile virus.
Ticks also can carry diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis. Bees and wasps don't transmit diseases, although an allergic reaction to their stings can kill some people.
"But the best approach is prevention in the first place," Whelan explained.
That means using an insect repellent which contains Deet, but be sure to follow label directions and use common sense.
When outdoors, wear long sleeves and pants with cuffs tucked in your socks and spray clothes with Deet repellent. Stay indoors at dusk when mosquitoes are most active and feeding.
"You certainly want to not leave out food uncovered, because this will attract bees. Open garbage again will be just an invitation. Don't wear bright-colored clothing and don't wear lots of perfume and hair spray," Whelan added.
If you can't avoid nasty nuisance bites, try an antibiotic ointment to reduce skin irritation. If nothing seems to help, check with your doctor.