It’s that time of year when the warmth we’ve waited so long to experience finally arrives. With the scents of flowers, the sounds of children laughing, and the picnics and park dates on the calendar, there is often a faint buzz in the air too. That sound brings the inevitable bug bites that also make their appearance this time of year. Thankfully, in Michigan, most bites are just a nuisance, but their appearance sends a lot of people to the web — and I’m not talking about Charlotte’s! To serve as a quicker reference, below are some of the most common bug bites, what to look for, and how to treat them.
- As Michigan is surrounded by water, mosquitos are one of the most common bug bites experienced.
- If bitten, a swollen flesh-colored or pink hive-like bump will appear where bitten. The bite site will be very itchy.
- Most bites resolve on their own within a few days but calamine lotion, over- the-counter hydrocortisone, and cool compresses can increase comfort.
- Notify a healthcare professional if you experience fever, muscle aches or if you aren’t feeling well after a bite.
- Ticks are more commonly found in wooded areas or around tall grasses.
- Ticks burrow into skin and are usually visible surrounding a reddened area of the skin. They can feed as long as they are attached, so, if discovered, remove right away with a pair of tweezers taking care not to crush the tick. Wash the area after removal. If possible, save the tick in a jar to be tested in case infection develops. A non-itchy, small red bump will form.
- Most bites resolve on their own but seek medical attention right away if the bites spread, turn purple, look target-like, or if fever and body aches develop.
Insect (bees, wasps, hornets) stings
- Stinging insects are usually more common in late summer and early fall.
- Symptoms include discomfort at the sting site, warmth, swelling and often times a visible stinger can be seen. Remove the stinger as quickly as possible and wash with soap and water.
- Over-the-counter hydrocortisone, calamine, ice and elevation can help.
- The biggest risk for stinging insects is allergic reactions such as hives, difficulty breathing, and vomiting after a sting. Call 911 or seek medical attention immediately in the event of an allergic reaction. If a known allergy exists, always carry epinephrine.
Non-poisonous spider bites
- Spiders inject venom through tiny fangs and can occur year-round but are more common in summer months.
- They are often hard to identify but usually present with redness, swelling, and pain at the bite site. Spider bites are usually seen as a single bite and may develop overnight.
- Bites usually resolve after a few days on their own, but calamine, over-the-counter hydrocortisone, and cool compresses can increase comfort.
Poisonous spider bites
- The brown recluse and black widow spider are the two poisonous spiders found in Michigan. While they are not very commonly seen, they do generate a lot of fear.
- A brown recluse spider is brown with a violin shape on its head.
- A bite will start as pain at the site followed by a blister 4 to 8 hours later. Next, a depressed center and bluish appearance will appear 2 to 3 days later.
- Non-fatal but skin damage, fever, vomiting and muscle pain can occur.
- Seek medical attention and if possible, bring spider in a jar.
- A black widow spider is black with a red or orange hourglass figure on its underside. They are often found in large piles of wood.
- A bite will be accompanied by immediate pain and swelling, and severe muscle cramps will develop within 1 to 6 hours. The bites are rarely fatal, unless multiple bites occur.
- Seek medical attention if bitten and if possible, bring spider in a jar.
– Melissa Rettmann, M.S., PA-C, has a background in pediatrics and allergy. She is the mother of three young children and volunteers with the Parenting Program.