Along with summer time activities comes exposure to the many types of insects which are also enjoying summer time activities. This often results in a clashing of lifestyles so to speak as the insect world prepares for the coming winter hibernation. Most bug bites occur on exposed areas of skin, but a number occur under the clothing. A study done at a nudist camp showed that persons who wore no clothing experienced fewer insect bites than those who did. This suggests that running around in the “buff” will decrease insect bites and the theory has been advanced that bugs like the warm, cozy confines under clothes. I think another study should be done to compare the type of clothes that insects prefer. Do they like designer clothes, those from Meier & Frank or from resale racks? I personally wouldn’t mind getting a grant from the National Institute of Health to conduct such a study.
One of the more common types of insect bites seen are from the hobo spider. From July until September the spiders are found in greater numbers throughout the Pacific Northwest. The spider is about the size of a silver dollar, including its hairy legs, and brown with gray markings. It will have parallel markings which run its length and may have a herring-bone pattern on its tail. They live in crawl spaces, wood piles, attics or anywhere spiders tend to hang out. They are not overly aggressive, but then, they probably will not ask you to tea either. Its venomous bite contains a venom and leaves a red mark which may be mistaken for a flea or bed bug bite. Initially the wound is sore but will develop into a blister in the next day or two. This is followed by a scab which may take up to a month or two to heal completely. Red marks left by bites have taken up to a year or more to completely disappear.
Some systemic effects such as headaches or rarely vomiting and diarrhea may be seen. If these occur, a physician should be consulted. Treatment initiated early will save suffering and discomfort later.
A few general rules for the treatment of insect bites will help prevent further spread and discomfort.
1. Wash the bite thoroughly with soap & water as soon after it has occurred as possible.
2. Ice the bite to decrease swelling and spread of venom.
3. Elevate the extremity to decrease swelling.
4. Observe for the spreading of redness which accompanies a bite; this may signify that the infection is spreading and needs to be evaluated by a physician.
5. An oatmeal poultice will help relieve itching if present.
6. Consider using homeopathic Apis, Urtica or Sulphur for the itching & swelling and Ledum if there is a stinger present in the bite.
Dr. Tom Kruzel practices in Portland, Oregon and can be reached at (503) 667-1961