Many insects, bugs and spiders will also come out to play during these summer months. While nobody likes to deal with these pests, most of them are harmless or just a nuisance. There are some, however, that can cause problems or even be dangerous for your family and pets. Take a few minutes to learn more about the common pests in our area, and what precautions you can take to protect yourself from uncomfortable bites, stings, infections and even diseases they can cause:
Spiders. Most spiders are harmless, no matter how scary they may look. However, two poisonous spiders can be found in our area:
- Western Black Widow. Black widow spiders are among the most easily recognized, thanks to the distinctive black color and red hourglass markings on the poisonous female.
- Recluse. These are the most poisonous spiders found in California. Contrary to popular belief, not all recluse spiders are brown, and most (but not all) can be identified by violin shaped markings.
Both spiders are nocturnal and like to hide in wood piles, debris or other dark spaces. Always wear protective gloves when reaching into areas you can’t fully see, and shake out clothes or shoes you haven’t worn in a while before getting dressed. Bites require immediate medical treatment, and can be fatal for babies, toddlers, elderly people or those with compromised immune systems.
Ticks. Ticks flourish in Northern California, and are always a concern for hikers or anybody spending time in outdoor, forested areas. Spring and early summer is prime tick season, when juvenile ticks are at their most virulent stage. Ticks can cause a variety of illnesses, with Lyme disease being the most common for both people and pets. Because they are tiny (young ticks can be as small as a poppy seed) and can quickly burrow into the skin, they are very difficult to find. Avoid bites by wearing long sleeves and long pants tucked into boots or thick socks, and check yourself (and your pets) carefully after hiking or camping. If you find a tick, carefully remove it by pulling it straight out with a pair of tweezers, then thoroughly clean the affected area with rubbing alcohol or soap and warm water. See a doctor if you develop a fever or notice a bulls-eye rash around the site of the bite.
Bees and Wasps. Bees play a critical role in our ecosystem, but a sting is painful — and can be life-threatening for those who may be allergic. The best way to avoid the sting of a bee or wasp is by not attracting their attention. Perfume, brightly colored clothing and open beverages are all very enticing for these flying creatures. If one is flying near you or happens to land nearby, resist the urge to flap your arms frantically, which can startle the bee and make it more likely to sting. If a sting happens, remove the stinger immediately with your fingernail or the edge of a credit card to stop the release of toxins, then wash the area with soap and water. Apply ice or a paste made with baking soda and water to reduce swelling, itching and pain. Signs of a severe allergic reaction include hives, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or fainting, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat or tongue or loss of consciousness. If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms after a sting, go immediately to the nearest emergency room or call 911.
Fleas. If you’re a pet owner, you know that fleas are an issue year-round. But peak flea season in California is typically in July and August, or earlier if the temperatures are warmer than usual. Even if your pet is on a flea treatment protocol, it’s still important to limit exposure that can cause infestations. Keep pets nearby or on a leash when outside, and avoid interactions with unfamiliar dogs or other animals. At the first sign of fleas, contact your veterinarian and have all household pets treated immediately.
This article first appeared in the June 2019 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.