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Be Prepared, So You Avoid Bug Bites — and Disease

Over the past few years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people developing dangerous diseases as a result of mosquito, tick and flea bites. In fact, between 2004 and 2016, 640,000 people came down with them, although experts believe the numbers are actually higher because many cases go unreported.

There’s more: according to a 2018 report published by the CDC, Illinois is one of the top states for disease caused by insect bites. According to the data, the number of mosquito- and tick-borne diseases in the state escalated from 226 in 2004 to 772 in 2016.

“These diseases — such as Zika, West Nile virus and Lyme disease — can result in serious complications or even be deadly,” said Piushkumar J. Patel, MD, an internal medicine physician with Centegra Physician Care in Huntley. “Everyone should take steps to reduce their chance of being bitten and help remind others to do so, too.”

One simple tip, Dr. Patel said, is to cover all exposed skin whenever possible.

“For extra protection, tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks. Also, wear closed-toe shoes. Whatever you can do to give insects less access to your skin, the better.”

More Tips to Avoid Bug Bites

Here are other ways to protect yourself from insects this summer:

  • Stay on walking paths and trails and avoid heavily wooded areas or tall grass.
  • Make sure the insect repellent you use contains at least 20 percent DEET. Then don’t just put it on before you go outdoors, but carry it with you wherever you go.
  • Avoid spending time outdoors between dusk and dawn, or be well-protected at these times, since bugs can be more active.
  • Remove any ticks you find right away and clean the bite area. To remove a tick, use fine-tip tweezers and pull the tick out gradually. Take care not to squeeze it, since this can redirect diseased liquid back into the wound. Also, don’t twist the tweezers as you pull, since the tick’s mouth might stay embedded in your skin.
  • Near your home, drain standing water to prevent mosquitos from gathering and breeding. If it can’t be drained, you may be able to treat it. The CDC offers tips on how to do so.
  • Don’t leave windows and doors open, and check all screens in your home to make sure they don’t contain rips, holes or other openings that insects could crawl through.
  • At the end of the day, always conduct a tick check on yourself, your family and even your pets. Don’t forget warm dark places such as the folds of your skin, and make sure to have others check areas you cannot see, such as the back of your neck.

Don’t Hesitate if Something Feels “Off”

Sometimes a person might hesitate to see a doctor after a bug bite because bug bites seem like a minor and common part of summer.

“It is always better to be on the side of caution if you have concerns,” Dr. Patel said. “Look for signs of an allergic reaction or infection such as redness or swelling. If anything seems unusual, see a doctor and don’t wait too long.”

If you have a bug bite that is concerning you, contact your primary care provider or make an appointment by calling 815-338-6600.

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