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What Bit Me? A Look at Bug Bites & Stings

October 22, 2019

You might think that since fall has officially arrived, bug bites are on the way out. But that’s just not the case, especially in Tennessee. 

In fact, since beautiful, cooler fall temperatures often get us out and about, we’re at risk of those pesky bites and stings all the way into the winter.

While most of the time these bites are just an annoyance, they can sometimes bring the threat of illness with them, which is why it’s important to take steps to prevent them. It’s also important, though, to know what different bug bites and stings look like—and what to do for them.

Common Bug Bites & Stings to Know

While it’s true that you’ll experience some relief from pesky bugs during the cooler months of fall and winter, bug bites and stings are still very possible. In fact, that time outdoors exploring hayrides, corn mazes, tailgate parties, and other autumn delights brings us in contact with some of the biggest pests. Here are the ones to know about:

Mosquitoes. While the mosquito season does begin to wane as we hit the cooler months, you’re still at risk during the fall. If a mosquito bites you, you will experience a raised, round, puffy bump on the skin that almost always itches. The “itch” is caused by the mosquito’s saliva, which is injected into the skin with the bite. Because mosquitoes can carry disease, it’s important to apply insect repellent before spending much time outdoors, particularly around standing water. If you’re bitten, try not to scratch, since doing so can force bacteria into the skin.

Chiggers. For people in the north, these insects aren’t a common issue. But here in the south, we’re all too familiar with them. Chiggers are a type of mite that attach themselves to humans and feed off their skin. So, their “bites” aren’t really so much bites as they are a bug making its home on your skin. This causes intense itching. They’re a particular problem in the fall, when we head outdoors, since they’re often found in overgrown grass and forest areas. Try to steer clear of tall grass if you’re not wearing long pants, and wear insect repellent to fend off these pests.

Bees. Bees don’t bite, but they sure do sting! If you’re stung by a bee, you’ll likely experience pain, redness, and swelling at the site of the sting. Your best bet is to remove the stinger and wash the area with soap and water. To prevent bee stings, be aware of your surroundings and keep food and drinks covered while outdoors. Wasp stings often cause similar reactions.

Ticks. Ticks often carry disease, so it’s important to be vigilant about protecting yourself from their bites. To do so, it’s best to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when heading into the woods or forested areas, and it’s important to wear repellent. You should also carefully check your body and clothing for ticks after spending time outside, as well as check your pets. If you spot a tick, it’s important to remove it carefully—use tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin’s surface and pull upward with steady pressure. Do NOT squeeze, as doing so can cause some of the tick to remain behind.

How to Prevent Bug Bites & Stings

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends some basic bug bite prevention:

  • Use insect repellent. What should you look for? To protect against mosquitoes, chiggers, and ticks, choose a repellent that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET. It should be applied to both exposed skin and clothing, following the directions on the product.
  • Wear the right clothing. What’s the right clothing? Well, unfortunately given that warm temperatures can linger pretty deep into a Tennessee fall, you want to protect yourself by covering as much skin as possible. So, think long sleeves, pants, socks, and closed shoes.
  • Take extra steps if sleeping outdoors. If you’re camping or otherwise sleeping in the great outdoors, up your game by also using bed nets to protect against insects such as mosquitoes. These can be treated with a layer of insecticide for extra protection.

Have a bug bite or sting that won’t seem to go away or is getting worse? Have it checked out! Need a doctor? Fine one here.