Thursday, June 6, 2013

This Summer Protect Yourself from Insect-Borne Illnesses

As the seasons change, so does outdoor insect activity. Insects are more active in the warmer months, which puts you and your family at greater risk of exposure to insect-borne illnesses like the West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Outdoorsy folk, take heed:

West Nile Virus (WNV)

The WNV is a type of encephalitis, or brain swelling, which is spread by mosquitos. The disease is most prevalent in the summer and early fall months when mosquitos are most active.

The most common symptoms of WNV are fever, headache and body aches. Patients could also experience swollen lymph glands, nausea and vomiting, and a skin rash. Severe symptoms include tremors, convulsions and muscle weakness, and can also lead to blindness and even paralysis. Symptoms typically last several days to several weeks, but it is also possible for someone to be infected and have no symptoms at all.

There is no specific treatment for WNV, although over-the-counter medications could relieve some symptoms. Those with severe symptoms could require hospitalization.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a type of bacterial infection spread by immature ticks, called nymphs. The specific tick species include the deer tick and the western black-legged tick. The disease is most prevalent during the spring and summer months, when immature ticks feed. It is possible to catch Lyme disease from adult ticks, but they need to be attached for 36-48 hours to transmit the disease. Adult ticks are usually detected and removed before they can transmit, while nymphs are much smaller, and can go undetected for longer periods of time. 

The most recognizable symptom of Lyme disease is the red “bulls eye” rash that radiates out from the site of the tick bite. Other symptoms include fatigue, fever, chills, body aches and swollen lymph nodes. Left untreated, the patient can also experience facial paralysis, neck stiffness and meningitis.

The disease is treated with antibiotics and early detection and treatment are key. The longer the patient is exposed to the bacteria, the more likely she will develop long-term joint and neurological problems, including arthritis and short-term memory loss.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)

Like Lyme disease, RMSFis a bacterial infection caused by ticks. The specific tick species include the American dog tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick. The disease is prevalent throughout the US and infections can occur year-round.

Symptoms of RMSF include a fever within 14 days of a tick bite, a rash within 5 days of a tick bite, headache, nausea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain.

RMSF is potentially fatal and, as with Lyme disease, early detection and treatment are crucial. The disease is treated with antibiotics, more serious infections could require hospitalization and more aggressive treatments. 


Wear long pants and long sleeves when working outside, or hiking in the woods. You should also wear insect repellent as an extra measure of protection. You can find online deals on insect repellent, as well as balms, lotions, and medications for bites using DrugStore coupons. You could probably even find some 2013 Black Friday specials online to buy these items in bulk.

Remove any containers of standing water around your property, these can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Make sure all of your windows have screens, and repair any holes that you might encounter.

Always check your outdoor pets for fleas and ticks, and apply medication if necessary. If you have several pets, consider purchasing bulk repellent; this can be cheaper than buying individual doses.

Check your body for ticks after spending long periods outside. Include difficult-to-see areas like your scalp, groin, and armpits. If you find a tick, remove it immediately and contact your doctor about possible testing.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience  symptoms of any of these diseases.

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