From Zika to ticks, here's what you need to know about staying safe outdoors.
The Zika virus has pregnant women worried about the health of their babies, and as the weather warms up, we're all at greater risk for coming into contact with bugs that bite and sting. Pfizer Chief Medical Officer Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall helps explain how to protect yourself and your family.
Dr. Lewis-Hall reminds us that bugs can be more than a nuisance. In fact, they can be downright dangerous. Pregnant women should avoid traveling to an area where Zika has been spreading. If they’ve recently returned from a trip to one of those areas, they should be tested.
How to protect yourself from mosquitoes:
- Apply insect repellent frequently
- Wear long sleeves and pants
- Stay in places where mosquitoes are blocked by screens, nets, etc.
Bees, Wasps and Fire Ants
Let's move on from what bites you to what stings you. Bees, wasps, and fire ants usually don’t carry disease, but their stings contain venom which can really affect you. If you’re stung by a bee or a wasp, you should check carefully that the stinger is out. If not, you should remove it carefully and quickly.
If you see fire ants, Dr. Lewis-Hall says you should kill them immediately with a slap. Their venom is an irritant, so make sure to clean the area right away and thoroughly. If you do get a sting, don’t scratch it. Some people can be severely allergic to the venom, so make sure to call 911 if you or someone you know has:
- Difficulty breathing
- Becomes hoarse
- Starts wheezing
- Starts to swell quickly around face, hands, feet
Ticks don't bite and flee...they like to stick around. They can burrow anywhere on your body, but tend to prefer warm, moist places. So, make sure to check your armpits, groin, and hair. If you do find a tick on your body, e arly removal is important as it generally takes around 36 hours for them to begin transmitting disease.
How to remove a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers
- Grasp the tick as close to skin’s surface as possible
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure
- Don’t twist or jerk
- Don’t squeeze, crush or puncture the tick body
After tick removal, clean the area with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Make sure you don’t squeeze or puncture it because you could push the infected material deeper into your wound. No matter what you've heard, don't put a hot match tip on it, paint it with nail polish, or dab it with kerosene or gasoline because they may have the same effect.
Dr. Lewis-Hall recommends that once you remove a tick, submerse it in alcohol if it's still alive. After, put it in a closed container like a sealable bag, and dispose of it after you’ve wrapped it tightly with tape. You can also always flush it. Keep a lookout for a circular red patch or "bulls-eye."
Ticks can carry Lyme disease, which can make you feel like you have the flu.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
- Flu-like symptoms
- Joint pain
Symptoms can be very mild or may not even show up at all. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, especially if treatment is started early. If left untreated, infection can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system, so see a doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms.
Dr. Lewis-Hall reminds us that this information is important for people who camp, hike or fish, but ticks are spreading in suburban areas too. They tend to live in grass or shrubby areas, so be sure to have insect repellent on when you’re outside. When you come in from outdoor activities, make sure to check yourself and your family members thoroughly and take a shower – this includes the family pet!
For more information on bugs, how to take care of their bites, and also how to prevent them, visit www.gethealthystayhealthy.com.
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