Steer Clear of Pesky Bug Bites this Summer

Summer is in full swing, and those long days mean being outdoors until the wee hours…and also trying to avoid being bitten by annoying insects. Some of these biting bugs include ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, mites, fire ants, spiders, bees, wasps, and hornets. Yikes! It’s a wonder we go outside at all! But fear not, there are lots of ways to prevent yourself from being a victim of a nasty bite. In the event you do suffer a bite or sting, there are also things you can do to make it hurt less. has a great website explaining all of the various bug bites and stings you might have to deal with and how to treat them. According to the site, bites from insects and spiders cause more deaths than snake bites!

Look for the signs of a bite

If you think you may have been bitten or stung, check to see if you are having some kind of skin reaction. Fire ant bites and stings from bees, wasps, or hornets will likely be very painful – you will know if they got you! Mosquitoes, fleas, and mites, on the other hand, will likely cause your skin to be itchy, and won’t be so painful.

Look for the following signs of a bite or sting:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

Some people have severe reactions to bug bites. Seek help immediately if you have trouble breathing, have shortness of breath or wheezing, throat tightness or trouble swallowing, or if you are feeling weak or starting to turning blue.

Avoid bug bites; source: CDC

How to prevent being bitten or stung

You can take some simple steps to avoid being bitten or stung, including:

  • Wearing insect repellent and protective clothing (including long sleeved shirts and pants, or clothing treated with repellent)
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend repellent with at least 20% DEET to prevent mosquito and tick bites
    • The CDC also recommends applying sunscreen first, and then applying insect repellent
  • Stay away from hives, nests, and ant hills
  • Avoid perfumes and floral-patterned or dark-colored clothing
  • Be careful when eating outside, especially if you have sweet drinks or if you’re around garbage cans
  • Avoid standing water, including around your own backyard; dump out any empty flower pots or other things than can collect rain water
  • Don’t swat at bugs, especially stinging insects like bees and wasps – just slowly back away
  • If you know you have a severe allergy to bug bites or stings, let the people around you know, and keep an EpiPen on you

How to make it hurt less

First things first: clean the bite or sting area with warm water and mild soap. If you get stung by a bee or wasp, use your fingernail or a credit card to scrap the stinger away. Don’t try to remove the stinger with a tweezer–it will only inject more painful venom into your skin.

Here are some other things you can do to make that bug bite more bearable:

  • Try a pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • An antihistamine can help with the swelling and itchiness; there are also topical antihistamines available that you can apply directly on the bite
  • A paste made with calamine lotion and baking soda can also help with the itch when applied on the bite area
  • Try icing your skin to reduce swelling; do this for only 5-10 minutes at a time
  • Some home remedies to try:
    • put a drop of honey on the bite or sting
    • squeeze some aloe vera on your skin
    • soak a wash cloth in cold water and apple cider vinegar and apply to the bite
    • take an oatmeal bath by adding 1 cup of oats into a tub of warm water–soak for 20 minutes

Armed with these tactics, you should feel better about enjoying your time outdoors during these dog days of summer.  Remember, not all bugs—even ones that can sting us—are bad. If we stay out of their way and protect ourselves, they should stay out of ours.


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