Not only is it hot in Central Texas in July, but it’s the height of bug season. Gnats, flies, mosquitos and bugs so small you can hardly see them are ready to attack. Declare your Independence from all of our area’s annoying things by taking preventive measures.
The best way to avoid bug bites is to apply insect repellant. Here at City Drug, we’ve been hearing a lot about the Zika virus lately, which evokes questions about insect repellants, especially in regard to mosquitoes. Regarding the Zika virus, our biggest concern is for pregnant women, because the virus has been linked with birth defects. Insect repellants are safe during pregnancy when used properly. Most are even safe for children aged 2 months and older.
Prevention is the best way to protect yourself and your family from insect bites! And never underestimate the power of a fly swatter! They eliminate the culprits once and for all.
Remember to avoid putting repellant anywhere near the face.
There are several products that can help, but the most popular contain DEET because of its effectiveness. These brands include OFF! and Deep Woods which each offer a different strength of DEET. A higher strength does not mean it will fight off more insects. It just means that the repellent will last longer. A 10% DEET product will usually last 2-3 hours, 20% 3-5 hours and a 30% DEET product will last 5-6 hours. When you’re shopping for a repellant that has DEET, just choose the one that will last for the desired amount of time.
Some people don’t want DEET on their bodies and prefer natural repellants such as those containing oil of lemon eucalyptus. Some of the brands you might have seen include Cutter. These can work well, but… we don’t know enough about them to recommend them for children less than 3 years old. Another active ingredient is IR3535. Brand names include Skin so Soft. These can also be effective, but be mindful that if you get one that has a sunscreen combined with the repellant, the sunscreen typically won’t last as long as the repellant.
“Brady Ankles” is an old joke around these parts. Look around on a hot summer evening outdoors. Females in sandals, especially, are probably scratching their ankles. Tiny chiggers and mites are especially annoying and hard to see and just might be attracted to those pretty toes. Whatever the bite or rash, try hard not to scratch hard. A soft gentle “petting” of the infected area might make you feel better. If you do suspect infections, come into City Drug to discuss the various remedies that might help.
Avoiding poisonous plants
Talk about itching! Many people are allergic to common plants such as Poison Oak, Cow Itch, and even Virginia Creeper. Cow Itch has three leaves, like Poison Ivy, but it has a bulkier, stronger stem and thicker leaves, whereas Poison Ivy is a delicate, almost pretty vine. Both turn red in the fall, Poison Ivy actually looking deceptively lovely and the more brilliant of the two 3-leafers.
Poison Ivy looks and acts almost exactly like Virginia Creeper, which also turns a lovely red in the fall. The difference is that the more hearty and fast-growing, fast-climbing Virginia Creeper has five leaves. Think of it as “five friendly fingers” as opposed to poison ivy’s “three.” It’s a great way to teach children how to tell the difference.
When in doubt as to whether you or those in your care are allergic to any of these, if you suspect contact, especially if it’s Poison Ivy, rinse the exposed area in cold, clean water as soon as possible. Don’t scratch or rub it in. Rinse gently. Pat or air dry. Rinse again. Hot soapy scrubbings often make it worse. If you do get a rash, we always have good old calamine lotion on hand.
If a rash or a bite gets especially annoying, maximum strength .10 (meaning an active ingredient of 1% hydrocortisone) Cortizone cream, gel or ointment will provide welcome relief. Cortizone now comes mixed with other soothing ingredients, such as aloe vera. It works well on all sorts of skin irritations as you’ll see on the label, but dermatologists recommend that if you have to use it for a prolonged period of time, then take a few days or a whole week off in between so that its effectiveness won’t wear off.
Bad Bugs and Good Bugs
There’s a huge difference. Bad bugs bite and sting. Good bugs attack and eat bad bugs, so be careful who you swat or step on. Praying mantises and most spiders, for example, are on your team. So are hornets, wasps and bees, even though those will sting if you make them angry. But even then, they prefer to give you a warning tap.
If you or those in your care get bitten by mosquitos, ticks, bees, hornets or wasps, and especially fire ants, good old Bactine is a quick fix. It has a soothing ingredient in it called lidocaine. Time-proven home remedies work for some as well. While a bit “fragrant” on your skin, they include a spray of vinegar, bleach, or even Windex. But never use these on or around your face.
If bitten by something really mean, like a scorpion—which is very painful in the first few minutes, putting that foolish bare foot in cold water brings instant relief. Ice or an ice pack on any sting, large or small, helps immediately and actually minimizes swelling. But… do NOT ice snakebites.
Watch Out for Snakes!
Central Texas, unfortunately, hosts all four poisonous snakes. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths (water moccasins) and coral snakes. Again, prevention is the key. Watch where you step. Watch where you put your hands if climbing. Be careful of wide-mouth dark snakes in waterways. Learn to identify our poisonous snakes.
Rattlesnakes are the most plentiful of the Big 4 around here, and not all rattlesnakes give a warning rattle. Normally they’re just taking a nap. If you see that triangular head and fat tail, slowly back off. And don’t panic when you see those helpful non-venomous skinny-tailed snakes. They’re on your team too!
Protocol these days for venomous snakebites:
- . Note what kind of snake it was
- . Keep the victim calm and quiet
- . Call 911 immediately for an air or ground ambulance, depending on where you are, and get the victim to an emergency room as quickly as possible.
Do not put ice on the bite. Basically, do nothing except keep the victim calm and as still as possible until the victim reaches the nearest ER. If treated within 6 hours of the bite with CorFab, which most of our area emergency rooms now have on hand, damage can be minimal.
Take The Bite Out of Summer
While we can’t beat the heat throughout our long hot summers, we can take the bite out of it. Come by City Drug and we’ll have a good chat about what preventive and treatment products you should keep on hand for summer months to come.