Insects and related pests are hazards in a survival situation. Insects bite as a defensive mechanism or to feed off of the host. They not only cause irritations, but they are often carriers of diseases that cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals. In many parts of the world you will be exposed to serious, even fatal, diseases not encountered in the United States. In addition, most insect bites cause itching which can be a great annoyance and distraction when operating in a survival type situation.
- Ticks can carry and transmit diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever common in many parts of the United States. Ticks also transmit Lyme disease.
- Mosquitoes may carry malaria, West Nile Virus, dengue, and many other diseases.
- Flies can spread disease from contact with infectious sources. They are causes of sleeping sickness, typhoid, cholera, and dysentery.
- Ants can swarm and produce enough stings on an immobile person to cause severe health problems or death.
- Fleas can transmit plague.
- Lice can transmit typhus and relapsing fever.
Avoiding Insect Bite Problems
The best way to avoid the complications of insect bites and stings is to keep immunizations (including booster shots) up-to-date, avoid insect-infested areas, use netting and insect repellent, and wear all clothing properly.
If you are bitten or stung, do not scratch the bite or sting; it might become infected. Inspect your body at least once a day to ensure there are no insects attached to you.
- If antibiotics are available for your use, become familiar with them before deployment and use them.
- Pre-deployment immunizations can prevent most of the common diseases carried by mosquitoes and some carried by flies.
- The common fly-borne diseases are usually treatable with penicillin or erythromycin.
- Most tick-, flea-, louse-, and mite-borne diseases are treatable with tetracycline.
- Most antibiotics come in 250 milligram (mg) or 500 mg tablets. If you cannot remember the exact dose rate to treat a disease, 2 tablets, 4 times a day, for 10 to 14 days will usually kill any bacteria.
Mosquito bites typically result in two types of reactions – an immediate reaction and a delayed reaction that can occur 24 hours after the bite. Several anti-itch medications are commercially available, including those taken orally, such as Benadryl, or topically applied antihistamines and, for more severe cases, corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone and triamcinolone. Using a brush to scratch the area surrounding the bite (but not the bite itself) and running hot water over it can alleviate itching for several hours by reducing histamine-induced skin blood flow around the bite area.
If you find ticks attached to your body, cover them with a substance (such as petroleum jelly, heavy oil, or tree sap) that will cut off their air supply. Without air, the tick releases its hold, and you can remove it. Take care to remove the whole tick. Use tweezers if you have them. Grasp the tick where the mouthparts are attached to the skin. Do not squeeze the tick’s body. Wash your hands after touching the tick. Clean the tick wound daily until healed.
Fleas cause great itching and in some people, can cause an allergic reaction to the bite. Flea bites form a raised, swollen spot with a single puncture point at the center. The bites often occur in clusters or rows of two bites. Anti-itching cream, antihistamines, or Calamine lotion can be used to stop the itching.