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Preventing Bug Bites and Insect Stings

Learn how to protect your family from pesky parasites and poisonous spiders

A woman spraying her arm with bug spray to help in preventing bug bites while hiking.

Learn how to protect your family from pesky parasites and poisonous spiders

Distance learning and canceled travel plans mean a break from arthropodal nuisances like head lice and ticks, right? Not quite. Thanks to Southern California’s temperate climate, we run the risk of dealing with creepy crawlies year-round. 


“Typically, the more immature forms of bugs turn into adults in the late spring and early summer,” says Christen Benke, DO, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Del Mar


And while Dr. Benke says there’s no need to jump into panic mode, she does stress the importance of knowing what to look for and how to avoid getting bugged.

Common insects and spiders in San Diego

While many six- and eight-legged creatures sting and bite, some are more irritating — or intimidating — than others. Below are four types of arachnids and insects to watch out for:

1. Ticks  

Dr. Benke says to be mindful of ticks during outdoor activities. Stay toward the center of hiking paths, avoid high grasses and keep your yard foliage trimmed. 


“Tick-carried diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are found in San Diego County,” she says. “In most cases, a tick must be attached for around 36–48 hours to transfer a disease.” 


After hiking or camping, do a once-over and wash your clothes in hot water and dry within two hours. If you think you’ve been bitten, watch for flu-like symptoms or a target-like rash and call your doctor.

2. Spiders 

Very few Southern Californian spider bites penetrate human flesh. The species that do bite — brown recluses, brown widows and black widows — tend to hide out in dark places. 


If you haven’t inspected outdoor toys, tables or chairs in a while, Dr. Benke says it’s a good idea to do a sweep through. If you have been bitten, call your doctor.

3. Head lice

Head lice aren’t just a schooltime problem. Lice Clinics of America reported a spike in cases in the early months of the pandemic, likely due to transmission among family members staying at home together. 


Lice spread through head-to-head contact and they love to hang out on the nape of your neck, on your scalp and on strands of hair. To treat lice, Dr. Benke suggests over-the-counter products or, in pesky cases, prescription medication from your doctor.

4. Bed bugs 

Bed bugs are small, oval-shaped insects that typically live within furniture, wallpaper and carpeting. If travel plans are still on the agenda, inspect box springs, mattresses, bed frames and wall outlets before settling down in your hotel room. 


If you do catch bed bugs, deep cleaning your items in hot water and hot air are essential to killing the infestation.

Learn more about recognizing — or remedying — lice, fleas, ticks and bedbugs by watching our video or listening to our podcast.

San Diego Health March 2021 Issue

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.