It's the time of year for bug bites, and while most don't cause health risks, some do
WASHINGTON — It's that time of year when the bugs emerge to bug us.
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Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.
Some can pose real threats — Lyme disease from tiny ticks, West Nile virus from mosquitoes, or life-threatening allergic reactions to bee stings. But most bug bites in this country are an itchy nuisance.
How itchy or big the welt depends in part on your own skin, how much of the chemical histamine it harbors. Yes,
some people really are mosquito magnets. And no, most of the bites people blame on spiders aren't from them at all.
In fact, chances are you won't be able to tell the culprit unless you catch it in the act. Yet doctors and entomologists alike field calls asking, "What bit me?"
"People call up really bummed out," says spider expert Jonathan Coddington of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, who points to just two worrisome types in the U.S. the black widow and brown recluse family. Spider phobia, he says, is "out of all proportion to actual risk."
It's not uncommon to have a large skin reaction to any bite or sting, and Dr. Reid Blackwelder, a family physician from East Tennessee State University, sees a couple of them a week in the early spring and summer.
"Most of the time, what people need is reassurance," he says.