Taking the “bite” out of summer pests


No matter where you live there will always be some kind of summer pest that like to either bite, cling, sting or be a real pain in the you-know-where.  All you want to do is simply enjoy your summer without worrying about dealing with the inconvenience of rashes, pain or developing a serious disease.

With some careful planning and protection you can elude these pesky summertime annoyances by taking a “bite” out of their potential to torment you.

Sea lice

Sea lice are a marine parasite that affect fish and are not actual lice like their name implies.  Found in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and along both the east and west coasts of the United States during the spring/summer months of April to August is when sea lice are in season.  Swimmers are more likely to encounter stinging sea lice than other ocean pests.

These microscopic larvae of jellyfish contain nematocysts (stinging cells).  The main culprit causing sea lice infestations is the larvae of the thimble jellyfish.  Visible to the naked eye, they become invisible once in the water.  Unless you notice other swimmers coming out of the water with a rash, you probably won’t notice them.  The larvae like to trap themselves between your swimsuit and your skin or in crevices like your armpit. When they feel compressed, the sea lice will cause their stinging cells to fire.

The sting of sea lice will cause an intensely itchy red rash with small blisters mainly appearing in areas covered by swimwear.  A severe reaction can include fever, chills, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. 

When out swimming and you notice itching or a burning sensation, get out of the water immediately, remove your swimsuit and shower thoroughly.  Avoid rinsing with fresh water while wearing your swimsuit as the sea lice will continue to sting while in the fabric.  Machine wash your swimsuit before wearing it again.

Symptoms of sea lice often won’t appear for six hours or more lasting from two day to two weeks.  Avoid scratching the rash or blisters which can lead to an infection.  Home remedies of vinegar and meat tenderizer can bring some relief.  Also hydrocortisone cream and an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl can help relieve itching. 

Bee or wasp stings

Getting stung by a bee or wasp is never a pleasant experience.  The sharp pain gets your attention right away and for some people with bee sting allergies, it could turn into a very serious and life-threatening event.

Generally, stings by these flying insects are avoidable.  Their mechanism of defense is their stinger and when they feel threatened, they are not afraid to use it.  Here are ways to make them feel less intimidated:

·      Don’t wear perfume or colognes – you’ll smell like a flower and attract the insects to you.

·      Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing and floral prints.  Again, you’ll stand out like a flower waiting to be landed on.  Keep outdoor clothing limited to khaki, white, beige, or other light clothing.

·      Bees are attracted to sugary foods and beverages and may actually try a sip so be sure and check your drink to avoid getting stung in the face.

·      Walking barefoot in your yard is asking for trouble.  Bees love the nectar of small flowers in your yard and wasps can make nests in the ground.  Wear shoes to protect yourself from getting stung.

·      If you find a bee or wasp buzzing around you, stay still and remain calm.  Once you start swinging to get them away, they are more likely to defend themselves by stinging you.

·      When driving, keep your car windows rolled up.

·      Wasps are attracted to empty soda or beer cans so be sure to rinse your garbage and recycling cans and keep lids on them.

·      If bees hives or wasp nests are in an area around your home where you don’t want them, contact a professional beekeeper to remove them safely to a better location.

Tick bites

Take a walk through a wooded or grassland area and you may discover an unwanted attached vagabond you weren’t expecting to bring home with you.  Ticks are prevalent and are the most active during warmer months (April-September) meaning you need to take preventative measures from their bite.  A single bite from a tick can transmit several disease-causing pathogens – Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Tularemia, Tick-borne meningoencephalitis.

Awareness is key to preventing tick bites and every time you are outdoors, you need to take precautions against their potential to spread a serious medical disease.  Here’s ways to keep this from happening:

·      Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

·      Walk in the center of trails.

·      Use repellants containing 20 to 30% DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-tolumide) on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts for several hours. 

·      Use products containing permethrin on clothing.  Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin which remains active through several washings. 

·      Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming in from outdoors to wash off and find any ticks on your body.

·      Check your pets for ticks as they can hitch a ride on them and then attach themselves to you.

·      Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. 

·      To remove a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.  Pull upward with steady, even pressure without twisting or jerking to prevent mouth-parts of the tick to remain in the skin.

·      Once the tick is removed, clean the bite area and wash your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.