Mosquitos, bees, ticks, and other insects can spoil summer outdoor activities. Not only can their bites or stings leave you itchy and uncomfortable, but they can also transmit insect-borne diseases, such as West Nile Virus, Zika virus, Chikungunya virus and Lyme disease. Don’t let bugs spoil your summer fun and take these steps to protect yourself and your family this summer.
What to Wear
Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. Choose an EPA-registered option that contains at least 20 percent DEET to protect against ticks, mosquitos, and other pests. Products that contain picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-methane-diol (PMD), IR3535 or 2-undecanone (methyl nonyl ketone) can protect against mosquitos but are not proven as effective against ticks and other insects. Do not apply repellent to skin that is covered by clothing. Once you are inside for the day, shower, or bathe to remove the insect repellent.
Don’t use sunscreen that contains insect repellent. Apply sunscreen first. After it dries, use insect repellent. Products that contain both repellent and SPF are less effective.
Wear pretreated clothing and gear. Many stores sell camping tents, clothing and hiking boots that have been treated with an insecticide called permethrin. You can also apply the insecticide to gear and clothing you already own. Never apply permethrin directly to your skin.
Avoid walking through tall grass or bushes. If you must, wear closed-toe shoes, a hat, long sleeves, and long pants. Tuck your pants into tall white socks and your shirt into your pants to reduce your chances of insect bites.
Creating an Ideal Setup
Keep your food and drinks covered when outdoors. Especially keep an eye on your soda can, as bees are attracted to sweetened beverages.
Plug in a box fan if you are sitting outdoors. The breeze can help keep biting insects away from your lower legs.
When to Take Extra Precaution
Protect children and babies. Apply insect repellent containing no more than 30 percent DEET to children over the age of 2 months. Protect infants from bug bites by draping a mosquito net over their stroller or baby carrier.
Take extra precaution if you are pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions pregnant women against traveling to places with Zika outbreaks, so always check before you travel. EPA-registered insect repellents have been found to be safe for breastfeeding and pregnant women when they are used correctly.
Checking for and Treating Bites
Check for ticks after spending time outdoors. Check your skin, scalp, clothing, and gear. Studies have shown that showering within two hours of exposure to tick-infested areas can reduce the risk of tickborne illnesses.
Remove ticks ASAP. If you find a tick on your skin, firmly grasp it as close to the skin’s surface as possible with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Pull the tick upward without twisting. This helps prevent its mouth-parts from breaking off and staying in the skin. If mouth-parts remain in the skin, carefully remove them with the tweezers. Once the tick is removed, thoroughly cleanse the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
Dispose of ticks correctly. Never crush a tick between your fingers. Instead, flush it down the toilet, put it in rubbing alcohol, or throw it away in a sealed bag or wrapped in tape.
Treat other bites. If you are stung by a bee, carefully scrape away the stinger with a credit card. Wash the area with soap and water. Apply a cool compress, calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to reduce swelling.
When to See a Doctor
See your doctor if you have symptoms of an insect-borne disease. If you develop a rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea, stomach pain, joint pain, or unusual fatigue within a few weeks of an insect bite, make an appointment to see your doctor or visit a Pardee Urgent Care location near you.