Ouch! 4 things that sting

Your family isn’t the only busy group during the summer. Insects are out in full force — antagonizing everyone they can find. This summer, stay aware of the different types of bites your family may experience.

1. Fleas:

Fleas can be found on pets and also in carpets and rugs. They tend to nestle and nibble in areas with tight-fitting clothing, such as under bras, around waistbands and near the buttocks. The bites often appear in small, bumpy clusters and are itchy and rash-inducing.

2. Ticks:

Ticks are prevalent in wooded areas or long grass. They need to be removed from the skin and hair immediately. You should check yourself and others for them after being outside. If you discover a tick, pull it straight off with a pair of tweezers. Do NOT use matches, nail polish remover or peppermint oil to remove a tick.

One risk associated with a tick bite is Lyme disease. An infected bite may have a bulls-eye appearance, with a red puncture in the middle and a red ring around the site. The rash expands over time, and symptoms may include a fever, rash, chills, fatigue, headache and body aches. Contact your physician immediately if these symptoms appear.

Thus far, it remains true that ticks in the state of Nebraska do not carry the Lyme disease-causing Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.

3. Spiders:

Spiders can be found in most places, both inside and outside. A majority of spider bites are harmless and may cause a small amount of swelling. However, some spider bites can be more serious, such as bites from a brown recluse or black widow.

Brown recluse spiders are very small brown spiders with a dark brown "violin" shape on their back. They're found in dark, quiet places such as attics, garages, woodpiles and underneath porches. They bite out of fear, and normally the bite site has some swelling and itchiness. You may not even feel the bite.

For some people, a bite from a brown recluse can be problematic. Individuals may notice swelling three to four hours after the bite, and the swelling may become a blister that turns black and leaves a scar. A more serious reaction is very rare but may include chills, fever, rash, nausea and seizure/coma (very rare).

If you believe you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse, wash the area with soap and water, apply ice and go to the emergency room. 

Black widows are very recognizable with their shiny black bodies and bright red-orange hourglass shape on their back. Like the brown recluse, they are small and found in dark areas. A bite from a black widow has an initial sting of pain at the site. Dull muscle pains in the chest and belly may set in minutes or even hours after being bit. Some people may develop muscle cramps and severe pain, nausea or vomiting, chills, fever or a headache within the first few hours. As the venom enters the blood stream, the affected person may have severe abdominal cramping.

If bitten by a black widow, wash the area with soap and water, apply ice and get to the emergency room as quickly as possible.


Heather L. Zimmerman, M.D., is board certified in pediatrics. Learn more about Heather on the Boys Town Pediatrics website.

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