No one enjoys getting a bug bite. Those itchy welts and irritating red marks are enough to blemish any summer day. But recent findings suggest you may want to go the extra mile in avoiding a bite from critters like ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes, since their bites could transfer increasingly dangerous diseases into your body. These strange symptoms are becoming more common as climate change increases the population and distribution of these blood-sucking pests.
Mutated West Nile Virus
Mosquito bites are not a joke anymore. 2012 marked one of the largest West Nile outbreaks in history, with more than 1,100 cases and 40 deaths. Some cases targeted the brain, causing dangerous swelling or even meningitis. Neurologists and virologists suspect the virus has mutated into a more dangerous form, citing more severe symptoms like loss of speech, paralysis, and severe brain damage even in even younger, healthy people who normally would show no symptoms.
Protect Yourself: West Nile virus season peaks in August, but when the weather is warm, make it a habit to use less-toxic mosquito sprays to deter the pests. Products made from pepper and botanical oils have been proven to be effective. Avoid brain-damaging DEET products. Your wardrobe could play a role, too. Mosquitoes are much more attracted to blue than to other colors.
Strange but true! University of Virginia researchers made a startling discovery in 2012, finding that getting bitten by a lone star ticks could lead to a red meat allergy. Scientists believe the ticks' saliva could carry an antibody that causes the immune system to overreact in the presence of sugars found in red meat. This allergic reaction could translate into itchy, burning hives on your body. Vegetarian chili, anyone?
Protect Yourself: Getting a shower after you're done working outside significantly reduces your risk of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases because the water and washcloth work to knock off ticks before they can attach. Pay special attention to tick-friendly parts of the body like the groin, armpits, and bra area. The American beautyberry plant may have tick-repelling properties, so plant a few in your yard for extra (and beautiful) protection.
Ticks carry other harmful diseases that are often missed with standard tests. Know tick-borne disease symptoms, including panic attacks, sleep trouble, fatigue, brain fog, and then find a Lyme-literate doctor who specializes in treating these diseases.
Unfavorable Flea Conditions
Wet, warm winters are becoming more common thanks to climate change, creating perfect conditions for a more robust rodent population. More rats and mice mean a stronger flea population, too, opening up the floodgates for disease transmission to humans. Fleas can pass along the tapeworm parasite, cat scratch fever, and even bubonic plague. Often thought of as a disease from the Middle Ages that now affects only rural areas, a 2012 study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases found the rare bubonic plague is moving into more affluent areas of New Mexico.
Protect Yourself: People are most likely to face flea bites if their pets are carrying the unwanted passengers. Control fleas on your pet by combing and bathing your pets, washing pet bedding frequently, and vacuuming. You can combat fleas in the yard by purchasing and applying predatory nematodes. To rate and choose flea and tick pet product options, visit Natural Resources Defense Council's Green Paws database. Simple steps are effective in controlling rodents in your home. Vacuum often and make sure you seal up food for people and pets.