Mosquitoes, Wasps, And Spiders, Oh My!

As temperatures climb from spring into summer across North Texas, insects become more plentiful – joining us to welcome the warm sunshine.

While 95 percent of the insects that surround us are harmless and often considered beneficial, unfortunately there are a few that can bite and sting.

Many insects call Texas – a state known for its rugged, `wide-open spaces – home and can be found both in rural regions as well as in the larger metropolitan areas.

Mosquito Season

Spring rains set the stage for the proliferation of one particular type of insect that is a well-known carrier of disease – the mosquito. Carriers of primarily Chikungunya, West Nile and Zika viruses (among others), mosquitoes multiply with standing water and warmer weather – a combination most North Texas springs bring together beginning in April. By May, mosquito virus reports increase steadily due to standing water left over from the heavy rain season.

This year, areas along the Gulf Coast are anticipating a heavier season from the standing water left from Hurricane Harvey last year.

In 2017, the Town of Flower Mound reported two human cases of the West Nile virus and five positive traps of mosquitoes carrying the disease. Last year, neighboring Lewisville reported 19 traps with infected mosquitoes. The first traps in Lewisville will be placed across the city on April 27.

Denton officials indicate mosquitoes only require two tablespoons of stagnant water to breed and often feed less than a mile from their origins. While not all mosquitoes carry the virus, there are symptoms you can watch for if bitten. In a span of three to 15 days, approximately 20 percent of individuals bitten by an infected mosquito may experience fever, nausea, body aches, skin rash, headaches, vomiting or swollen lymph nodes. Approximately 1 percent of those bitten by an infected mosquito may experience more significant neurological symptoms including high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, vision loss, numbness, headache, stupor, coma, convulsions, muscle weakness or paralysis.

The key is to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the above symptoms in conjunction with a recent mosquito bite.

The other two viruses – Zika and Chikungunya – are frequently the result of recent travel to areas abroad where infected mosquitoes are active.

Wasp and Bee Watch

Whether in the country, at work or outside at home, you are likely to see bees and wasps busily going about their business. But if a collision occurs and you get stung, there are a few things to do first:

  1. Remove the stinger
  2. Wash the area with soap and water
  3. Cover the wound, keep it clean
  4. Apply a cold pack for 15-20 minutes to reduce swelling

However, if you are allergic or experience trouble breathing, swelling, dizziness, a rash or hives, low blood pressure or shock, it is important to seek medical treatment immediately. Those with known allergies to bees and wasps often carry an Epinephrine auto injector. Milder reactions such as moderate swelling can be treated with antihistamines.

It’s a Spider!

Texas has two venomous species of spiders that can be found both indoors and outdoors. The first is the black widow and the second, the brown recluse.

The female black widow is identified by a reddish or yellowish hourglass on the underside of its black body. The venom of the black widow is a neurotoxin, which can lead to severe systemic reactions. It is believed to be 15 times more toxic than the venom of a prairie rattlesnake. Reactions can be particularly severe for children and older adults. Symptoms may include abdominal cramping or rigidity, convulsions, headache, nausea, pain, profuse sweating, vomiting, tremors, etc. Black widow spiders are often found in woodpiles, boxes, outdoor toilets, meter boxes and other relatively undisturbed areas.

The brown recluse has a fiddle-shaped pattern on the head of its brown body. The necrotizing enzymes in its venom may cause necrosis at the bite site as well as additional symptoms of chills, fever, nausea and a red, white and blue lesion at the bite site. The brown recluse spider is often found in basements and garages hiding in boxes, clothing and other undisturbed dark areas.

Try to identify the type of spider that caused the bite and head to your nearest emergency medical clinic for treatment.

Also on the Spring Watch List

Animals are also on the move right now – from skunks and raccoons to slithering snakes. It is always a good idea to keep your distance from any wildlife, but particularly in the spring. Many are nursing young and are easily irritated by humans crossing their paths. But another important reason to avoid them is the potential for an interaction with an animal carrying rabies. In Fort Worth, a bat and a skunk were found to be infected with rabies, according to a news report on April 18. Other wildlife known to carry rabies include foxes and coyotes. Typically, the rabid animals come in contact with family pets and, occasionally, children.

Anyone who believes they have had contact with a rabid animal should seek immediate emergency medical attention regardless of whether they have been bitten.

As for the slithering snakes, make sure to watch your step. Snakes are often sunning themselves on rocks or roads in early spring, curled up in unexpected corners or crossing grassy fields in the summer. Of particular note in North Texas are copperheads, coral snakes (remember if red touches black, all is OK but if red touches yellow, there’s a big problem) and rattlesnakes.

Any bite from a snake warrants an immediate evaluation at an emergency medical clinic.

As always, we hope you have a safe spring and summer. We’re here if and when you need us at Rapid Med Urgent Care Center.

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