In our wonderful community, insects are plentiful, ranging in various sizes, colors, and shapes. Although they are small and may look harmless, which most of them are, a few can be dangerous to our health. Being more knowledgeable about our dangerous little neighbors can help us be better prepared when encountering them.
Brown Recluse Spider
Luckily for us, this spider isn’t actively looking to attack humans. This spider only bites if it feels threatened; so it is essential to know where they usually inhabit and to be cautious when you might be in their home. These spiders tend to be in corners of rooms with piles of junk or clothing, attics, and cracks in walls and boards. Most bites from this spider cause mild skin irritation and heal themselves without any tissue damage. But in rare cases, this spider bite can cause the death of the surrounding tissue. Although there are no recorded fatal cases from this spider bite, if you suspect a bite from this spider, it is crucial that you seek medical attention immediately for further evaluation.
This spider also only bites when it feels threatened. They usually live in garages, woodpiles, and sheds. Be very cautious when you are in these spaces. If bitten, the bite takes several hours to cause symptoms, including rash, stomach pain, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, and difficulty breathing. If you suspect a bite, go to the emergency room immediately. For children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions, a bite can be fatal. For pregnant women, a bite can cause contractions and labor to begin.
Almost all mosquito bites are benign, causing only a mild itchy rash. But a small percentage of mosquitos carry viruses that can be fatal. If you plan to be outdoors for an extended period, use insect repellants, and wear lighter colors, mosquitos tend to be more attracted to dark colors. If a mosquito bites you and you begin to develop fevers, headaches, body aches, or vomiting, immediately seek medical attention.
Ticks are usually found in animal-heavy and wooded areas with plenty of vegetation. Most tick bites are harmless, but some can spread Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Although these conditions are rare in Texas, there is still a possibility. Monitor for any rashes in the shape of a target, indicative of Lyme disease, or small and pink rashes that start on the extremities that spread to the trunk, indicative of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. If you develop these rashes after a tick bite or develop a fever, body aches, or muscle and joint pain, seek medical attention immediately.
Yellow Jackets, Hornets, Fire Ants, Bees, and Wasps
These insects are hard to avoid because they tend to be everywhere outdoors. These insects attack by stinging. Most stings cause minimal to moderate pain for a short period. The pain usually subsides even if no medication or intervention is taken. But if you notice swelling around the mouth or eyes, wheezing, or muscle cramps, you may have a severe allergic reaction to the sting called anaphylaxis. This requires immediate medical attention. If this becomes reoccurring, one should schedule an appointment with their primary care to discuss having an epinephrine pen on the person at all times for severe allergic reactions.
Universal Practices to Avoid Bug Bites and Stings
- Use Environment Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents. These repellents are proven to be safe and effective.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
- Treat clothing with 0.5% Permethrin, do not use it directly on the skin. The CDC has a great video on how to apply Permethrin on clothes: https://youtu.be/CSS_FeIgaoc
Dr. Hossain is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.