Yep, it’s that time of year. The weather is getting hot, we just had record-setting rainfall, and the kids are outside when the sun is going down. And guess what…your kids are covered in bug bites. Because of our generally mild winter and the recent heavy rains, the bug season is here in full force and will be one of the worst ever. So, what can you do? Today we will discuss the various bugs that are causing trouble in south Alabama, ways to reduce mosquito growth around your house, how to protect your kids, and what to do if you or your child gets bitten.
There are lots of bugs that can cause trouble down here. Of course we all know about mosquitoes, but we have also seen an increase in red bugs (they live in pine straw or hay), ticks, fleas, yellow flies and “no-see-ums.” While the various bug bites are annoying, luckily, there is low risk of something serious happening. Everyone has heard of Lyme disease from tick bites, but it is very rare in south Alabama. Everyone has also heard of West Nile disease from mosquito bites, but again, very rare. You can also have bug bites get a secondary bacterial infection like MRSA. Now, just because they are rare doesn’t mean that these can’t occur, so with any bites, be on the lookout for any fever, red streaks, red target looking lesions, headache or altered mental status.
So what can you do to prevent your child from getting bitten? First, mosquitoes hatch in water, so if there is any standing water near your house, they will be there. After every rain, walk around your property and dump out any standing water to reduce growth. Next, try to avoid having your kids outside during peak bug times—dawn and dusk. If your kids are going to go outside, it’s a good idea to have them covered up in light colored, long sleeve (if possible) clothing and you can try to “hide them” from the mosquitoes by wiping them down with dryer sheets or spraying them with a mosquito repellent containing 5% or less of DEET.
Parents always ask me why some people get bitten by bugs, and others don’t get bitten at all. There are a lot of theories and scientists haven’t definitively answered the questions, but basically some people release certain hormones that attract bugs and some people release hormones that actually hide you or repel them. It’s all based on your genes, so you can blame your parents. I also have people tell me all the time that their kids are allergic to bug bites (I don’t mean bees or hornets—those are real) and they need allergy testing. Well, not really. You can’t be “allergic” to mosquito bites per se, but you can have what we call a large local reaction to the bites in that your histamine system reacts very strongly and produces a lot of swelling.
So, what can you do if your child does get bitten? I always tell folks to carry a small tube of topical Benadryl cream or steroid cream if you are going to be in a high risk area. Check your kids frequently and put a small dab on each bite and it will stop it from becoming a large, swollen area. Sometimes, a collection of bites can really lead to some impressive swelling and you have to give your child an anti-histamine by mouth. Look on the back of the bottle and follow the instructions. If you don’t see you child’s age or weight, then contact you healthcare provider. If any of the above serious reactions occur, then definitely call them! In the end, the bugs are here to stay, so prevent what you can and treat them if you see them. Check out some resources at cdc.gov and mobilecountyhealth.org and put on sunscreen!