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Bugs 101: Minimizing Those Summertime Stings

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, June 23, 2008 3:29 PM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Foodborne Illness, Insects, Insecticides, Repellents, Pesticides

How to on minimize bug bites and stings. 

Summertime Safety: Beware of Pesky Bug Bites and Stings



IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto: bug gone/ author: Pannonia 


The warm summer weather welcomes fun in the sun, barbeques and pool parties but it also brings out the pesky bugs. Most bug bites and stings, while bothersome, will heal on their own without medical attention; but there are many things you can do to help relieve the pain and itching while also preventing infection from a bite or sting.

How to Keep Bugs & Insects Away

Most people have a mild reaction to insect bites and bee stings, while some can suffer a severe allergic reaction that can often times be deadly. Below are helpful tips for treating and preventing bites and stings.

  • Try not to wear bright colors, which bees are attracted too
  • When possible, wear long pants and long sleeves for protection
  • Avoid wearing heavily scented perfumes and soaps
  • Tuck pant legs into socks and/or shoes
  • Use screens and netting when possible
  • Try to avoid brushy and wooded areas as much as possible
  • When eating outside, be sure and keep drinks and garbage cans covered so bugs don’t feel welcome
  • Water gives mosquitoes a breeding ground – eliminate all containers that contain standing water. Examples: flower pots and pet food bowls
  • Use insect repellent if nonchemical methods are ineffective
  • Use permethrin (to repel and kill ticks, mosquitoes and other insects) to treat camping gear. You can buy clothing for camping that comes pre-treated with permethrin

Insect Repellent 101

Insect repellent and sunscreen can be used together.  Generally sunscreen should be applied first, prior to repellant application. You may also be able to find some products that contain both sunscreen and insect repellent in-one.

  • Insect repellent should be sprayed on skin and clothing, but not on the face
  • Insect repellent meant for people, should NOT be sprayed on pets
  • Follow the labeled instructions on the repellent bottle for safety

Insect repellent that contains active ingredients registered with EPA is the safest choice. An EPA registration number on the labeling means the product has been evaluated by the EPA to ensure it is safe and will not pose harmful effects on the environment and users.

Do not use insect repellent on babies. Repellent can be used on older children but it should not contain more than 10 percent DEET. Products that contain oil of eucalyptus should not be used on children three years of age and younger. Avoid applying near children’s eyes or on hands.

Insect repellent can be washed off with soap and water. If an adverse reaction occurs when the repellent is applied you can contact Poison Control Center at (1-800-222-1222) for assistance.

Safely Remove a Bee Stinger

Use a straight-edge object, such as a credit card, to scrape the stinger in a side-to-side motin. Do not use tweezers as thast will likely push the venom into the skin.   Wash area with soap and water. Ice can be applied to reduce pain and swelling.

Tick Removal

Ticks are usually harmless, however a tick bite can lead to Lyme Disease which is ca used by borrelia burgodoreferi.

Ticks, unlike bee stingers, can be removed with stingers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it out. The tick should be placed into a plastic bag and sealed and thrown away. For a tick to transmit Lyme Disease it has to be on the skin for up to 36 hours so early detection and removal is essential. After removal, you can cleanse the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

Relieve Pain & Itching from Bites and Stings

Over the country drugs such as Benadryl, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen can help relieve pain associated with bites and stings. If your child is under three, it's best to contact your medical doctor for advice.

There are several topical OTC drugs that can be applied directly to the skin to provide itch and pain relief. These drugs are labeled as "external analgesics" or "topical analgesics" and can be found at your local drugstore.

Elevate the area with the bite to help decrease swelling.

For the first six hours following the bite, apply an ice pack to the wound in 15 to 20 minute intervals once an hour to help reduce swelling. It is important to keep from scratching the area, even when it itches, because should the skin tear, it can lead to a bacterial infection that will require treatment with antibiotics.

Most stings and bites are minor and can be treated with over-the-counter preparations. But you should seek medical attention if you observe the following:

  • Signs of Infection – It is normal for minor redness and swelling of the affected area. But if a fever develops or the area worsens a trip to the doctor is a good idea as an antibiotic may be needed to fight the infection.
  • Allergic Reaction: Some people may experience anaphylaxis, a severe and often life-threatening allergic reaction to insect bites and stings. In these situations 911 should be called immediately. Signs of allergic reaction will appear with seconds to minutes and include wheezing, hives, dizziness, difficulty breathing, chest tightness and more. Some people are aware of that they have severe allergies and carry epinephrine, a medication that is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions.

West Nile Virus Symptoms – West Nile Virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and can produce flu-like symptoms which include skin rash, headache and body ache. While most will recuperate without complication, some infections can be dangerous and often times fatal.

Lyme Disease Symptoms -- Lyme Disease is transmitted through an infected tick and can cause headaches, skin rash and fatigue. If left untreated the disease can spread to the nervous system, heart and joints. The good news is, the disease is rarely fatal if treated during the early stages.

The tips above should help you and your family to have a safe and insect-bite free summer. However, if you or your child suffers an insect bite or sting and you are unsure of what to do, it is best to visit your medical doctor for further advice and medical attention.  #

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