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#happylife: Avoid getting bit by mosquitoes and ticks this summer!

SPOKANE, Wash. - The itching.... the scratching.... the swatting! There is no escaping bugs when you head outdoors in the Inland Northwest during the summer.

Luckily, we have passed black fly season, but Sandy Phillips with the Spokane Regional Health District said we are just beginning mosquito and tick season. You can learn more about summer pests here.

On Friday, West Nile Virus was found in mosquitoes in Moses Lake. The virus can cause flu-like symptoms and neurological problems. Phillips said there have been cases in Spokane County in recent years, too.

“We do want people to protect themselves against mosquito bites in the summer and particularly we want them to remain vigilant through the end of the summer because the human cases we've seen are in the end of August and September," said Phillips. 

Don't forget about ticks, too.

Deer ticks are the ones that carry Lyme disease. They are very small; about the size of a poppy seed. Luckily, you don't have to worry about those around here. You do have to worry about wood ticks also called dog ticks, they are about the size of a watermelon seed,a little bigger. They carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

The best defense is being prepared when you head outdoors. It may not sound ideal in the summer, but wearing clothes that cover-up your body – long sleeves, pants, sneakers and socks – can reduce your chances of getting bit. 

“If you wear really thin clothing they will try to penetrate through so you want to wear something a little thicker than that,” said Phillips

“Also wear lighter colors that are pattern free so you can see and swat them off,” said Jake Mullenbach, with REI Spokane. 

For back-up, REI Spokane has a whole bug bite prevention section. There are Deet products galore. Experts said Deet products are some of the most effective chemicals in deterring bugs.

“Deet is like the staple of just, you don't want bugs coming near you, you put some Deet on,” said Mullenbach.

A lot of people like to steer clear of Deet because it dries out the skin. Mullenbach said a great alternative is any product with Picaridin. 

If you really don't want anything on your skin, they now make bug spray just for your clothing, called Permethrin. 

“You treat your clothing ahead of time and it lasts up to 42 days and it really deters bugs from coming near you and if they land on you, they pass away,” said Mullenbach.

If you do get bit, Dawn Mattinson, a nurse practitioner with Multicare Rockwood Moran Prairie Family Medicine, said it's important to wash it out with soap and water. Cold compresses can help with the swelling and an antihistamine nasal spray or hydrocortisone cream can help curb itching and scratching. Continous scratching can often lead to an infection.

You'll want to give your doctor a call if the bite area is warm to the touch and the swelling does not go away; those are signs of an infection.

When it comes to tick bites, if you are spending time in the woods, it is important to take time to check yourself sooner rather than later. It reduces your chances of getting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Check warm and darker places on your body – like under your arms, behind your ears, your neck and hair. If you spot one and it's embedded in your skin, do not use petroleum jelly or a match to remove it. Use tweezers. Here is how to do so safely.

If you start to develop flu-like symptoms, it's time to call the doctor. That can be a sign of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. If you were unable to remove the entire tick, you should consult your doctor as well.



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