Summer is here which means many of us will be spending time outdoors and enjoying a picnic in the park…with us on the menu. Insects circle your head on the hiking trail, land in your delicious food, and swarm you around the campfire. What a pain! Don’t forget what comes later, the itch! Whether you are being annoyed by a flea, mosquito, fly, wasp, or bee, there are a lot of ways you can keep them from bugging you.
Oh those itchy bumps!
When an insect takes its first “bite” of your skin, it injects saliva or venom. Once your body recognizes the bite venom, it gradually becomes sensitive to the venom, so the next time you experience that insect bite you may become red and itchy in the area.
When innocent bites go bad.
Not all bug bites are harmless. If someone in your family has an adverse reaction to a bee or wasp sting for example, it is a good idea to keep an emergency kit available. Some common signs of a rapidly progressing allergic reaction are hives, swelling of the face, eyes, tongue or lips, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting. We recommend keeping the following in your emergency kit:
- Antiseptic towelettes
- Antihistamine tablets
- Cold pack
- Hydrocortisone cream
Some bugs can cause bacterial infections like impetigo. People with impetigo usually notice honey-colored, crusty patches that show up after they start scratching. Severe itching can also cause skin ulcers, scars, changes in skin color, swelling, allergic reactions, and thickened skin.
Some insects like ticks, can cause serious illnesses like Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Many northern, mid-Atlantic, and western states are home to deer herds and the ticks that they carry.
When to see a doctor.
Dermatologists are able to treat bug bites even when they aren’t sure what bit you. If you are worried about a bite, talk to your dermatologist. They may recommend a topical or oral medication to lessen the itch from the bite.
How to pick a repellent.
There are many different bug repellent options for you to choose from. DEET is an active ingredient found in many bug repellents. It acts as a protective barrier on your skin deterring insects from bugging you. The most important thing to remember is to follow the directions carefully on the labels as it can be harmful if not used correctly. Do not use bug repellents on children younger than 6 months old and avoid contact with your eyes and mouth. Make sure you are applying your sunscreen first and then your bug repellent. There are some bug repellents that have sunscreen in them, however we do not recommend using a combination product as the active ingredients can be less effective.
How to keep the bugs away.
Here are some other ways to keep the bugs from biting you.
When you are outside…DO:
- Make sure your picnic area is screened.
- Use insect repellent candles of electric bug zappers.
- Wear a hat outdoors to cover your hair.
- Wear light-colored clothing that’s snug at the wrist and ankles.
- Keep garbage cans closed and clean.
- Wipe off sweat as soon as possible. It attracts insects.
- If you’ve been swimming, shake out your towels and clothes before using them.
- Keep your emergency kit handy if any family members are seriously allergic to stings.
When you are outside…DON’T:
- DON’T wear perfume, perfumed lotions, or hair spray.
- DON’T wash with scented soaps, creams, or cosmetics.
- DON’T wear dark-colored clothes or bright colored clothes.
- DON’T go near rotting fruit in picnic areas.
- DON’T kick or move logs.
- DON’T wear jewelry or shiny buckles.
- DON’T go barefoot.
Following these recommendations should keep the insects from bugging you this summer.