Sunday, January 21, 2018

Don’t Bug Out!

July 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Insect repellent Lauren Bishop for CDC aFace it: outdoor lovers can’t hide from biting bugs. There are ticks along the walk to the dock and amidst the shore foliage, and on most evenings there seem to be more mosquitoes than stars!

Dr. Sunil Sood says that for the sake of our health, we need to be vigilant against insects, as many carry diseases. As chief of pediatrics and an infectious disease specialist at Southside Hospital (part of Northwell Health), he treats infections from ticks and mosquitoes, and watches as variations are discovered worldwide.

“Prevention is key to avoiding many insect-borne risks,” says Dr. Sood. “We don’t pay enough attention to the basics of prevention and end up worrying about the consequences of bites.”

Boaters’ bug basics start with applying repellent before they head outdoors and then bringing it along for reapplication as the day goes on. If possible, Dr. Sood recommends soaking all clothing and gear with a permethrin spray up to two days before heading out on the boat or paddleboard, as it’s a “very potent insecticide that repels all bugs.” You can make your own spray by carefully following the directions on labels affixed to permethrin sold in garden centers — buying in bulk means you can be generous in application.

Dr. Sunil SoodDr. Sood, who is also an attending physician of infectious diseases at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and professor of pediatrics and family medicine at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, advocates DEET (diethyltoluamide) as an additional insect repellent. He advises boaters to buy formulations “of at least 25 percent but preferably 50 percent, and apply morning, evening, and night in accordance with the package directions.” (Don’t apply any repellent to babies two months and younger.)

Boaters are advised to wear light-colored clothing in order not to attract mosquitoes and to highlight the presence of ticks. They are also counseled to wear long sleeves, high socks, and long pants to deny ticks skin access. Besides the impracticality of wearing a turtleneck and high boots on the boat in summer, chemical repellents are actually a better approach, per Dr. Sood. As ticks and mosquitoes are persistent bugs that will crawl or fly into any available spot, he’d rather they turn away rather than linger to look for openings in your attire.

After returning home after a boating day, take a shower and look over your body (or your kid’s) in a bright light. If you do see a tick on the skin, Dr. Sood says “don’t panic — ticks removed within 48 hours almost never cause harm.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here’s the proper way to remove ticks:

  1. Courtesy CDC

    Courtesy CDC

    Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

Save that tick, says Dr. Sood, because if symptoms do develop within about two weeks, bringing the culprit to the doctor makes it easier to identify the illness and start proper treatment. Those symptoms include “any unexplained fever, rash, headache, or neck stiffness” but he cautions that these same complaints can arise from any summer virus. That’s why a boater should share outdoor experiences with the person compiling the medical history so she or he knows there is a possibility of a tick-transmitted illness.

Black, deer, horse, and other types of biting flies are the bane of a boater’s existence. You don’t need to wait days or weeks to know when one or more have decided to feast on you — the irritation is immediate and the welts arise quickly thereafter. If it’s any consolation, Dr. Sood says the pain is short-term, as “no infection is known to be transmitted by biting flies on the East Coast.” When it comes to keeping them as far away as possible, “permethrin is the more powerful insecticide that should repel them,” he says. [Editor’s note: Dr. Sood advises that deer flies have transmitted tularemia in the west, so readers are advised to check with the CDC website for geographic distribution of biting bugs in their area]

Absolutely Livid Man After Pesky Determined and focused.Moist environments and waterside brush are breeding grounds for the critters that can turn a well summer into an ill fall, so stay mindful of your need for protection. Apply repellent, walk in the center of paths to the dock or launch, and keep an eye on your kids and your pets. Since you’re prepared and the risks are relatively low, you’ll be able to focus on the fun aspects of boating.


By Lita Smith-Mines

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