Bug Bites Be Gone

Summertime is the perfect time for camping under the stars or enjoying a backyard barbecue. But spending more time outside also increases your chances of being bitten or stung by insects. Luckily, you can take steps to help avoid bites and stings—and to take the bite and sting out of any you get.

Start with these tips:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and socks if you plan to be off-trail.
  • Choose light-colored clothes (not bright, floral, or patterned clothing).
  • Skip perfumes, scented lotions, and strong-smelling hair products.
  • Treat your pets with flea and tick prevention products.

Applying insect repellent is another option if you will be outside for long periods or in places where mosquitoes or ticks thrive. Products with the chemical DEET are the most common. But you can also find products that contain active ingredients other than DEET, including picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus.

You may need to try several to find one that works well for you. No matter which product you choose, carefully follow the directions. Both chemical and natural products can have side effects if not applied correctly.

If you do get bitten or stung, don’t fret. Most bites and stings cause only minor pain or itching. You can treat these symptoms on your own:

  • For bee stings: Remove the stinger by gently scraping it with a credit card. Wash with soap and water. Apply a baking soda paste (3 tsp. baking soda + 1 tsp. water) or apply ice for 10 minutes until the pain lessens.
  • For mosquito bites: Wash the bite with soap and water. Apply an anti-itch cream. You could also blend oatmeal in a blender until fine and add it to warm bath water. Then soak to soothe the itch of multiple bites.
  • For ticks: Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Gently tug on the tick until its jaws release. Then pull it straight out and wash the bite with soap and water. Apply ice to reduce pain and swelling.

Be aware that any bite or sting can cause an allergic reaction. Get emergency help right away if you have swollen lips or throat, can’t breathe easily, or feel faint or dizzy. Use common sense, practice prevention, and get outside and enjoy.