Every year, thousands of Americans get sick or hurt after being bitten, not just by ticks but also spiders and snakes. That doesn’t even count bee and wasp stings, which can be deadly for those who have allergic reactions, like famed skateboarder Andy Kessler, who died after a wasp sting last month.

Kim Robinson thought she followed all the precautions when her children went camping and played outside. The Plymouth resident dressed her boys in long pants and long sleeves to keep the bugs away.


It didn’t work.


Both her son and her stepson got Lyme disease, which is caused by a deer tick bite.


Every year, thousands of Americans get sick or hurt after being bitten, not just by ticks but also spiders and snakes. That doesn’t even count bee and wasp stings, which can be deadly for those who have allergic reactions, like famed skateboarder Andy Kessler, who died after a wasp sting last month.


Mosquitoes have been a big issue this summer because of all the rain, and worries intensified after a mosquito with West Nile virus was found in Quincy for the second consecutive year. The virus also was found in mosquitoes in Boston, Walpole, Westboro and Westford.


“This year, there has been an abundance of mosquitoes,” said Plymouth County Mosquito Control Director Anthony Texeira. “We are setting new records each week.”


Pesky bug bites are nothing compared to what Robinson and her family went through. Her 14-year-old stepson Matthew lived with Lyme disease for two months before he started suffering from recurring headaches, flu, heart rate problems and other symptoms last October.


Months later, her 9-year-old son Kyle’s feet tensed up, his hand clasped into a fist and his joints ached. A doctor also diagnosed him with Lyme disease, which Kyle believes he got in February while on a Boy Scout camping trip.


“I never thought I would to check him in the middle of winter for a tick,” Robinson said. “There was no rash for either, no marks at all.”


Lyme disease, like many ailments associated with bites, becomes less common when the weather gets colder. Dr. Sam Telford of Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine said 90 percent of Lyme cases occur in June and July. He said the rainy summer may prolong the season through August.


Ticks and mosquitoes aren’t the only bugs that can hurt people in this region.


Two types of dangerous spiders have been spotted in Massachusetts: the black widow (most often in grapes or other imported produce) and brown recluse spiders.


Many factors play into a spider bite’s impact, including the age and health of the person bitten, the depth and location of the bite, and the amount of venom injected. With a black widow bite, the pain often migrates to the back or abdomen, and the victim may have severe cramps in these regions. With a brown recluse, the area around the bite will grow and become an unsightly lesion, according the Massachusetts Regional Center for Poison Control.


Still, while dangerous, such bites are rarely deadly and less of a problem in New England than elsewhere.


Bugs, however, aren’t the only things whose bite can hurt you on the South Shore.


Two venomous snakes live in the area, said Rick Roth, the director of Cape Ann Vernal Pond in Gloucester and a snake specialist for 52 years.


Copperheads and rattlesnakes can be found in the Blue Hills. They are endangered, and unlikely to attack.


If they do, the victims might experience swelling, bleeding and severe pain. Fortunately, snakes are easier to see and avoid than ticks, mosquitoes or other bugs.


“If you leave a snake alone, they will do the same,” Roth said.


Tony Catinella can be reached at acatinel@ledger.com.


 


TICK FACTS

There are two types of ticks: dog ticks and deer ticks. Deer ticks are the primary carriers of Lyme disease.


Adult female deer ticks are the size of a sesame seed and have reddish hind bodies with black dorsal markings. Males are slightly smaller than females and are a solid dark brown.


Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. Some tick bites may look like spider and mosquito bites.


Ticks need to feed at least 24 hours before they can transmit the pathogens that cause Lyme, babesiosis or ehrlichiosis.


Victims of Lyme disease usually have a slowly spreading, bull’s-eye shaped rash. They typically develop flu-like symptoms.


If the bite goes untreated, victims can develop a tingling feeling in the fingers and facial paralysis.


To prevent tick bites, residents in wooded areas should wear light clothing, long sleeves and long pants and use bug repellent. After going indoors, they should do a full-body tick check.


Sources: National Geographic and Dr. Sam Telford of Tufts University.


--


LOCAL POISONOUS SNAKES



The two local species of poisonous snakes are the timber rattlesnake and northern copperhead.


Copperheads are distinguished by their diamond-shaped heads and vertical, elliptically shaped pupils.



Both live in secluded habitats, like the Blue Hills, and are rare.


Both are endangered. People rarely encounter these animals, and bites are infrequent.


Bite victims often must go to the emergency room; bites are rarely lethal.


Symptoms of a snake bite include swelling; bleeding and severe pain at the site of the bite; chills or fever; sweating; weakness; thirst; nausea; numbness; and changes in heart rate and blood pressure.


Source: Massachusetts Regional Poison Center.


--


SYMPTOMS OF A BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER BITE








Brown recluse spider



Tissue damage; burning; pain; itching; body aches; rash; fever; nausea or vomiting; blister that turns black, deep blue or purple area around the bite, surrounded by a whitish ring and large red outer ring similar to a bull’s-eye.


 SYMPTOMS OF A BLACK WIDOW SPIDER BITE


Immediate pain; burning; swelling; redness at the site (double fang marks may be seen); cramping pain and muscle rigidity in the stomach, chest, shoulders and back; headache; dizziness; rash and itching; restlessness and anxiety; sweating; eyelid swelling; nausea or vomiting; tearing of the eyes; weakness, tremors, or paralysis, especially in the legs.








Black widow spider



WHAT TO DO IF A SPIDER BITES


Remain calm


Wash the area well with soap and water


Apply a cold or ice pack wrapped in a cloth, or a cold, wet washcloth to the bite site


To protect against infection, particularly in children, apply an antibiotic lotion or cream


Take acetaminophen to alleviate pain


Elevate the site if the bite occurred on an arm or leg (to help prevent swelling)


Seek immediate emergency care for further treatment; depending on the severity of the bite, treatment can range from administering corticosteroids and other medications to surgery of the ulcerated area; hospitalization may be needed


Act quickly; serious complications, especially in children, can be avoided with prompt treatment


Source: Children’s Hospital