With Summer coming, protect yourself from creepy crawlies.
With Summer coming, protect yourself from creepy crawlies.

6 Summer Bugs:
How to Protect Yourself

The forecast for the summer of 2016 includes lots of bugs in Arkansas. Due to a warm, wet winter and a cool, rainy spring, the conditions are ripe for an explosion of tiny pests. So we want you to have all you need to know about the big six: mosquitos, ticks, spiders, bees, fire ants and chiggers.
“Mosquitos and ticks have always been part of the Arkansas outdoor experience, and for most people they are just a nuisance,” said Dr. Amy Phillips, one of our OB/GYN doctors at UAMS. “This year, with the spread of Zika virus in other parts of the world and the risk to pregnant women, it’s more important than ever that we know how to minimize exposure and what to do if we or family members have a bite.”
“Most insect bites are harmless and produce only minor symptoms such as itching or burning and swelling at the site of the bite,” she said. “The risk of Zika virus in Arkansas is very minimal right now, but it’s good to have an awareness of the disease, especially for pregnant women and women who plan to become pregnant.”


At times, mosquitos seem to be taking over Arkansas. Take these steps to protect yourself and your family:
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats to cover as much skin as possible.
  • Treat clothing with permethrin or buy clothing and outdoor gear that has already been treated.
  • Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned areas.
  • Use a mosquito net when sleeping in tents or other areas exposed to the outdoors.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. 
    • Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. When used as directed, these products are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
    • Always follow the product label instructions.
    • Reapply as directed.
    • Do not spray repellent on skin under clothing.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply insect repellent after applying sunscreen
If you are bitten by mosquitoes:
  • Avoid scratching mosquito bites.
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to reduce itching.

What is Zika Virus

Zika is a relatively new disease for North America, having spread from Central and South America and the Caribbean. It is spread through mosquito bites and through sexual contact by a man to his partner. During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red, itchy eyes. Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks so they do not spread Zika to mosquitos that could spread the virus to other people.
In the United States, there have been nearly 400 travel-associated cases of Zika virus reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been zero cases of locally-acquired virus reported. Four cases of Zika virus have been reported in Arkansas, including three earlier this month. These patients all traveled outside the country and had mild cases of the disease.
Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defects in the brain. Special precautions are recommended for pregnant women.


Tick bites are usually harmless. However, a bite from a Lone Star Tick can cause people to develop a reaction to red meat. If you develop intense itching, swelling, and/or hives three to six hours after eating red meat, it may be related to a bite from a Lone Star tick and an Alpha-Gal allergy. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common ticks found in Arkansas right now.
Ticks can also spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease.
For more information about ticks in Arkansas and to report ticks you’ve found, visit tickencounter.org.
To prevent tick bites, make it hard for the ticks to reach your body by covering with closed clothing.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats.
  • Tuck in shirts, tuck pants into socks and wear closed shoes instead of sandals.
  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass, brush and leaves.
  • Walk in the center of hiking trails.
Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors.
  • Check your entire body (under your arms, in and around your ears, in your belly button, behind your knees, between your legs, around your waist and especially in your hair). Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body.
  • Be sure to remove ticks properly.
  • Check children carefully for ticks
  • Check your pets and belongings. Ticks can also be on outdoor equipment and clothes.
  • If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred and where you most likely acquired the tick.


The most dangerous spiders you’re likely to encounter in Arkansas are the black widow and brown recluse. Both of these are usually found in undisturbed places such as wood piles or piles of rock or leaves.
If you have any type of spider bite, clean the bite with soap and water and apply a cool compress to the area. Seek medical attention if you see these symptoms or if they continue to worsen for more than 24 hours.
  • Intense pain at the site of the bite
  • Joint pain or stiffness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Abdominal pain, vomiting or nausea
  • Fever or chills
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • A spreading wound or tissue death
  • Dizziness, impaired speech or convulsions

Fire Ants

Fire ants are reddish brown in color and have an aggressive nature. When a mound is disturbed, swarms of ants can suddenly appear and attack. Their bite burns and stings.
If you step on a mound, rub the ants off briskly before they attach to the skin with their jaws, injecting venom.
If there are multiple bites, take antihistamines to help reduce the burning and itching. Red bumps will form at the sting, becoming white and fluid-filled within a day or two. Seek medical attention if a sting causes severe chest pain, nausea, loss of breath or severe swelling.

Bees and Wasps

The best way to handle bees is to avoid getting stung. Remember, they usually sting to protect themselves, so your mom was right when she said, “If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.” Here are 10 tips to avoid bee stings.
If you or someone you are with is stung by a bee or wasp, watch for an allergic reaction. If it’s a routine bee sting, remove the stinger, apply ice and take over-the-counter pain medicine and antihistamine to help with the itching. Scrape out the stinger with a credit card. Some bee stings can take several days to heal.


Chiggers (Trombicula alfreddugesi) are widespread in Arkansas. Trombiculosis is a rash caused by chiggers as they feed on skin cells. The mite feeds through a tube that burrows through the skin and injects digestive enzymes. Mite saliva causes irritation with severe itching.
Use over-the-counter topical corticosteroids and antihistamines to help stop itching. If there are a lot of chiggers, more potent prescription topical steroids may be necessary. Chiggers do not burrow into the skin, so do not try your grandmother’s trick of smothering them with nail polish.
Although the chiggers have not been shown to carry diseases in the United States, they can cause scrub typhus (also known as Japanese river disease, scrub disease, or tsutsugamushi) in East Asia and the South Pacific. Symptoms of scrub typhus in humans include fever, headache, muscle pain, cough and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Don’t let these bugs keep you and your family from enjoying the outdoors this summer. Spray everyone with an effective bug spray as soon as you get outside. Use these tips to apply bug spray:
  • Apply only to exposed skin or clothing — do not apply to skin under clothing.
  • Use only enough to cover and only for as long as needed; heavy doses don’t work better.
  • Don’t apply mosquito repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
  • To apply to your face, spray onto your hands and then rub onto your face. Do not spray into your face, mouth, eyes or ears.
  • Use the same method for small children. Spray into your own hands and rub onto their clothes and skin. Do not put insect repellent on their hands because they often put their hands in their eyes and mouths.
  • Remember that most bug sprays don’t work with bees and wasps.
  • Don’t apply bug spray near food.
  • Wash your hands before eating or drinking.
  • Wash treated skin with soap and water at the end of the day.
  • Wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.
For added protection, treat clothing with permethrin or wear pre-treated clothing.
To learn more, please visit the UAMS Health Library
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