The Escupalp’s FORUM

Mission Statement:  To bring together health science and health care workers and those working or interested in related areas with the purpose of discussion of mutual topics of common interest, to promote professional and social interaction with Cleveland Polish Americans and to advance public awareness and appreciation of Polish medical tradition and heritage.                                                                                        *Esculap:  in Latin: Aesculapius, a name of Homer’s king known as very good physician. But in Poland popularly used as jocular, facetious name for physician.

Watch Out – Protect yourself from those bloodthirsty summer insects

We got to use to the idea that bloodthirsty insects are part of the summer and we are often forgetting about unpleasant and some time tragic consequences.  Stings by bees, wasps, hornets and yellow jackets will cause sever pain. It may also trigger occasionally tragic allergic reaction. Other insects may carry and transmit the bacteria or virus that cause the diseases. Deer ticks carry Lyme disease, wood ticks bear Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and mosquitoes harbor West Nile virus. Hundreds of gallons of different insect repellents will be sprayed and smeared on this summer in hopes of discouraging them.
There are a number of insect repellents on a market. The active ingredient in most of them is compound called DEET, for short. It has been used in commercial repellents since the late 1950s. Although there was a lot of controversy about DEET, recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established safety guidelines to use this product. For grown-ups the best way to keep these insects at bay is to apply a repellant containing no more then 30 % DEET to both unprotected skin and clothing. Popular OFF! Deep Woods contains 23.8% of DEET and it is the most effective repellent on a market.  In concentration less then 10% DEET is safe for children ages two and older. Both, OFF! Skintastic and OFF! Skintastic for Kids contain less then 7% of DEET and they are effective for more then hour.  But please DON’T use any bugs repellant on children younger than two! And, if you are pregnant, don’t use its unless your physician says it’s OK.
When applying insect repellent, be sure not to exceed the recommended dose and schedule on the label. DEET is easily absorbed through the skin. That’s why some people get a funny test in their mouth after applying a repellent. Additionally, they contain a powerful solvent that can be hazardous to your health. So apply them sparingly and avoid use around the mouth, the eyes, or open wounds. Use gloves if you have any cracks on your hands. If you apply repellent to your pet avoid animal head and under tile area. Always wash your hands afterward and avoid frequent, continuous use.
Millions of people have used DEET-based insect repellent for over 45 years with no untoward effects. The chances of an adverse reaction to DEET are tiny, but enough cases have been reported to fuel fears. Consequently, some people just don’t like to put a synthetic chemical on their skin. However, “natural” products contain citronella, soybean oil, peppermint oil, oil of eucalyptus, prickly pear cactus – you name it, can be as toxic as synthetic chemicals. Definitely they are less effective! The worst were the repellent–soaked (25% citronella) wristbands, which protect for lest than minute according to resent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
New product called Bayrepel containing piperidine or picardine is sold already in Europe. It is a promising alternative to DEET prepared from pepper. It has been described as almost water when applied.
There are also other ways to discourage all those stinging insects and ticks. During outdoor activity, particularly when hiking, wear long-sleeved shirt and tuck your pants into socks. Wear boots not sandals, so there is no exposed skin. Wear light-colored clothing so you can spot insects.
At the end of each summer day inspect yourself.  If you notice allergic reaction such as itching, swelling and stinging of the skin apply over the counter antihistamines for example Benedryl. The chance of being bitten by a mosquito infected with West Nile virus remains exceedingly rare. Most people who do end up bitten either experience no symptoms whatsoever or just mild, flu-like ones. But symptoms can sometimes be severe as a result of fatal illness – inflammation of the brain.
Ticks often hide behind the ears or along the hairline. Since they need at least 24 hours to infect an individual it can be greatly reduced by removing the ticks as soon as possible. To do this, clean the area gently with alcohol swabs. Then using tweezers or fingers protected with tissue grab the insect as close to the skin as possible and gently pulls it up and out. As an alternative, the tick can be encased in petroleum jelly to block its airway. It will unhook itself in about twenty minutes. The circular rash, which is the most recognizable symptom of Lyme disease, usually appears shortly after the tick bite has occurred. In such case call your physician.
After a bee sting, carefully remove the stinger as quickly as possible then apply cool compresses or ice pack to minimize swelling and relieve the pain.  A water solution of meat tenderizer, wet baking soda or calamine lotion can also be placed on the bite to reduce the discomfort. In some people allergic reaction to the insect’s venom can trigger symptoms beyond a local skin reaction. They may become dizzy and weak, or have diarrhea or hives and difficulty breathing. In such case, call 911 or your emergency rescue number.
In spit of that, don’t let bugs to spoil your summer. It is too beautifully and too short. Enjoy it!

Ewa H. Pezacka

Forum, 7-8/2003