Today's Medicine

Fighting Common Bug Bites of Summer

Brace yourselves. It’s that time of year again, when the creepy crawlies of spring and summer start to emerge. They’re out in full force, and they’re hungry.

All indications point to 2018 being a bad year for biting bugs. Research shows diseases spread by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas have tripled in the last 13 years. Ticks alone are responsible for doubling the number of diseases spread. This year, it's anticipated those numbers will continue to rise.

The most common bug bites

The most common bug bites come from ticks and mosquitos. And while most of the time they are fairly harmless, some pack a nasty punch. Here’s a guide to the top bug-borne diseases we see here in the metro:


  • Ehrlichiosis is a name given to several bacterial diseases spread by ticks to both animals and humans. Within a week or two of a bite, you’ll experience headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, fever and break out in a rash. The best treatment is an antibiotic called doxycycline.
  • Anaplasmosis looks an awful lot like ehrlichiosis, in that within a week or two you will come down with a fever, muscle aches, headaches and chills. It’s also treated the same way with doxycycline. The best way to tell which bacteria you have is through lab tests.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is also rare around these parts, but if you travel you should know that this tick-borne disease can be deadly if you don’t start treatment in the first few days. It can cause fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle pain. Some people also break out in a terrible rash. Doxycycline is the best line of defense.


  • West Nile Virus is one we hear a lot about, and fortunately most people who contract West Nile have no symptoms. However about 20 percent will develop a fever and generally feel poorly with other symptoms. Less than 1 percent may develop a serious, often fatal neurological illness. There are currently no medications to treat or prevent West Nile.
  • Enterovirus is a general name for a cluster of different viruses you could contract from mosquitos. Symptoms can range anywhere from fevers and not feeling well to severely debilitating illness. The viruses can lead to meningitis and encephalitis if not monitored. Doctors usually just treat the symptoms associated with enterovirus.

Stopping bug bites

The best line of defense from these illnesses is protection from the bugs themselves. Ticks and mosquitos are most active from April to September, when the weather turns warmer. Ticks are most often found in wooded or tall grassy areas, and mosquitos breed in standing water. Staying away from these bugs’ environments can help.

Also, when weather permits, wear long sleeves and pants. They can add an extra layer of protection between you and your exposed skin. Light-colored clothing makes ticks easier to spot. Do a quick clothing and body check for ticks once you get inside.

Remember, insect repellants are your friend. The best ones contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products. Just be sure to use any repellants according to the directions on the label.

When bad turns worse

If you get a bug bite and start to feel poorly, be sure to talk to your doctor or contact us at the Methodist Physicians Clinic Infectious Disease clinic. Getting treatment early can help prevent some of the worst effects from a nasty bite.

About the Author

Dr. Jessica Jones enjoys helping patients solve their medical problems. Seeing medical care as similar to detective work, Dr. Jones saw becoming an Infectious Disease Specialist as a natural fit. The Creighton University medical school graduate completed her residency at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. 

You can see Dr. Jones at the Methodist Physicians Clinic Infectious Disease Clinic. 

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