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Posted: Monday, July 2, 2018

Avoiding Summer Pests

Most people like summer. Kids are out of school, parents usually take vacation time and it’s warm outside – sometimes a little too warm. Summer wardrobes tend to be more fun to wear than winter wardrobes, too. But, with the arrival of warmer weather, we also get summer bugs. From ticks and mosquitos to fleas and flies, the bugs we get in the summer season can be major annoyances. However, whether they fly or crawl, summer pests also can potentially be dangerous, which is why it’s important to protect yourself when you’re spending time outdoors.

“We all know how irritating a bug bite can be, particularly in the summer,” said Mary Kathryn Cockrill from Blount Memorial’s infection control team sharing information from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). “More than just a skin irritation, though, summer bug bites actually can spread disease and germs, which are known as ‘vector-borne diseases.’ Vector-borne diseases can spread from person to person or from an animal to a person, all through a simple bug bite. In summer, the main offenders are mosquitos, whose bites, in some cases, can spread diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, Zika and more. The best way to avoid mosquito bites is to wear an insect repellant, preferably one approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If you’re applying sunscreen, be sure to apply the insect repellant first. You also should try to keep your lawn free of standing water, which means regularly emptying anything outside that can catch and hold water. If you notice high numbers of mosquitos or large areas of standing water in your area or neighborhood, you can contact your local health department,” she explained. “Remember, mosquitos can bite you indoors and outdoors, and are more active in the daytime, so it’s important to take steps to protect yourself all day long,” she added.

Not to be outdone, ticks also are both irritating and potentially dangerous summer pests. “Ticks typically are found in wooded areas, trails and in areas of your lawn that contain brush or overgrown grass,” Cockrill said. “The most obvious prevention step would be to avoid these areas as much as possible, but if you are planning to be out in tick-infested areas, it’s important to always check yourself for tick bites when you get home. Ticks can hide in lots of places, so be sure to check thoroughly. Again, a good insect repellant can make all the difference. Be sure to use one that contains at least 20 percent DEET, and spray not only your skin, but your clothing, as well,” she said. “Pets – especially dogs – are highly susceptible to ticks, as well, so be sure to really give them a good check, too, if they’ve spent time outdoors,” she added.

Speaking of pets, don’t forget about fleas this summer. “Of course, you always want to make sure your cats and dogs are treated for fleas,” Cockrill said. “But, you also should protect yourself. Flea bites can spread illnesses to rodents. When those rodents come into contact with you or your pets, they can spread those illnesses to you and the ones you love. Be sure to clear your yard of areas where rodents can hide, including woodpiles, garages and sheds. Always avoid touching any dead rodents, and keep pet food in rodent-proof containers. If your pet is sick, be sure to take it to the veterinarian as soon as possible,” she said. “You also can reduce your risk for flea bites by not letting your pet sleep in the bed with you,” she added.

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