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CNE Wellness
Carene's Wellness Corner
Dealing with Dangerous Bites

Summer is the prime time to be bitten by a nasty pest while enjoying the great outdoors. Treating a bite promptly and appropriately will ensure fewest side effects or repercussions.

But don't let your guard down when summer fun is over; both insects and wild animals can bite you at any time.

Here are some of the more common sources of bites and how to handle them.

  • Bat: Wash the bite vigorously with soap and water, go to the emergency room, and tell them you were bitten by a bat, saysDavid Lowe, MD, infectious disease specialist at Kent Hospital. Bats can transmit rabies. If the bat is not available to examine, you will need to get prophylaxis shots for rabies. "If you discover that a bat was in your bedroom while you were asleep, you will also need to get prophylaxis shots against rabies in case you were bitten," he says.

  • Dogs and cats: Stray dogs and feral cats could also potentially have rabies. "If you're unable to have the animal checked after it bites you, you may require rabies' shots," Dr. Lowe says. At minimum, wash the site with soap and water and get antibiotics. Make sure your pets are up to date with rabies shots.

  • Wild animals: There has been an epidemic of rabies amongst raccoons in our area. "Any bite by a wild animal such as a raccoon, skunk, or fox needs to be examined and will probably require rabies prophylaxis," Dr. Lowe says.

  • Ticks: If you have an embedded deer tick, carefully remove it with tweezers and seek medical care. Some health care providers give patients over eight 200 milligrams of Doxycycline to prevent the development of Lyme disease. This can be done up to 72 hours after the tick is removed. "Although this reduces the chance of getting Lyme disease, it does not eliminate the risk completely," Dr. Lowe says. "If you notice a single, large, red spot, you should see a doctor to be treated for Lyme disease." Lyme can cause facial nerve paralysis, arthritis of a single large joint, fever, chills, body aches, and headaches.

  • Dangerous BitesMosquitoes: Mosquitoes can transmit viruses that cause aseptic meningitis and encephalitis. There is no treatment for these viruses, however most patients get better on their own. One strain, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, is a particularly severe form of encephalitis which can cause brain damage and even death. To reduce your risk of getting mosquito bites, get rid of all standing water on your property, avoid entering the woods when mosquitoes are likely to bite (dawn and dusk), wear protective clothing (long pants and a long-sleeved shirt), and apply insect repellent to exposed skin and clothing.

  • Other insects: Bites by flies, bees, and wasps may cause redness, swelling, or itchiness at the bite site. Treat these bites with a cool compress and an antihistamine such as Benadryl. "People who are very allergic to bees and wasps should carry an Epipen and avoid situations where they may get stung," Dr. Lowe says. Any insect bite could develop into an infection, which can lead to painful swelling, redness, and sometimes drainage. Small areas can be treated with a topical antibiotic, such as Polymyxin or Bacitracin. Larger areas of infection should be examined by a health care provider to determine if they need to be drained or if an antibiotic is necessary.


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