Insect bites and stings
This time of year always seems particularly full of insects. I imagine the tiny creatures sensing that cooler weather is on the horizon and furiously scrambling to maximize their short lives. As we humans also sense cooler weather coming and seek to maximize our time outside, sometimes we collide and are left with an insect bite. Fortunately, most insect bites or stings in our area are nothing more than an irritation for a few days, but even with mosquito bites there are situations where it can be painful or even dangerous.
Mosquito bites are the most common insect bites and are typically a 2–3-day itchy frustration. In some people, most commonly kids, a larger reaction occurs with impressive swelling, redness and pain around the bite site that can last for days. Known as “skeeter fever” because it can also be accompanied by a low-grade fever. It usually resolves with age and can be treated preventatively with antihistamines like loratadine or cetirizine during the mosquito months, and ibuprofen and ice packs if bites occur. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a child has a bacterial skin infection or a skeeter fever reaction, so don’t hesitate to bring them in to be seen if you have any question about it.
Rarely, mosquito bites can be dangerous if the mosquito is carrying the West Nile virus and they transmit it to a human in their bite – particularly to an older adult or someone with a chronic illness. In 2022, there have been 39 cases of West Nile virus in Colorado and three deaths. So far this year there have been no human cases or mosquitos that tested positive for the virus in Southwest Colorado, but in the past five years there have been cases in all three nearby Colorado counties: Montezuma, Archuleta, and La Plata. There is no treatment once a person gets the virus, so though it is uncommon and currently not detected in our local region, mosquito bites can be dangerous and preventing bites through clothing and repellent is our only prevention strategy.
Bees, wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets all have the potential to sting humans. For most stings, the stingee will develop a mildly painful area with redness that gets better after a few hours and can be treated with an ice pack. About 10% of people will get a “large, local reaction”: a much larger, much redder, much more painful area around the sting that gets bigger for a couple of days and takes 5-10 days to completely resolve. This can be treated with prescription medications to ease the intense itch and pain. In a small percentage of people, a sting from one of these insects causes anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal. It necessitates rapid treatment with epinephrine into a muscle, usually the outside thigh and a trip to an emergency room.
I hope you and your families enjoy the last weeks of summer bite and sting free!
You can make an appointment for your child to be seen at the Southern Ute Health Clinic for insect bite or sting concerns or anything else by calling 970-563-4581.