Nothing puts a damper on a picnic or camping trip like a swarm of mosquitoes or bees.
Most bug bites and stings don’t cause long-term harm, but they may cause significant discomfort in the form of itching, redness and minor swelling.
Find out how to avoid and treat bites and stings, and when a reaction is serious enough to see a doctor.
Avoid bug bites and stings
There are several ways to keep the bugs away without using insect repellant.
- Wear long sleeves, pants and a hat. Tuck pants into shoes or socks.
- Wear light or neutral colored clothing. Bright colors attract bees.
- Skip scented soaps and perfumes.
- Keep drinks, food and garbage cans covered.
- Get rid of containers of standing water.
- Avoid wooded, brushy and grassy areas.
- Use screens and netting to keep bugs away from your patio.
Use bug spray if these tips aren’t enough to keep insects away or if you’re spending time in the woods.
Treat camping gear, clothes and shoes with the insect repellant permethrin, or buy pre-treated gear.
Pick the best bug spray
Only buy insect repellant with active ingredients registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These products aren’t expected to have harmful effects on people’s health or the environment.
Use products with less than 10 percent DEET for kids and adults.
Bug spray shouldn’t be used on babies younger than 2 months, and oil or eucalyptus-based products shouldn’t be used on kids younger than 3 years.
If you’re worried about your pets being bothered by bugs, get an insect repellant intended for animals.
Tips for using bug spray safely:
- Spray your hands first; then apply to your face. Avoid the eyes and mouth, and use bug spray sparingly around the ears.
- Adults should apply bug spray to children. Don’t apply repellant to children’s hands because they’re likely to touch their eyes and mouths.
- Don’t apply bug spray under clothing.
- Use only enough to cover exposed skin or clothes. Heavy application doesn’t mean better or longer protection.
- Don’t apply bug spray to cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
- Shower or wash skin with soap and water once you’re indoors.
- Stop using bug spray and wash with soap and water if you have a reaction.
- Call the local poison control center for more information, and bring the repellant with you if you see a doctor.
How to treat bug bites and stings at home
Over-the-counter products will provide relief for most bug bites and stings.
Try antihistamines that can be taken orally or applied to the skin for itch relief. Products with ingredients like hydrocortisone, pramoxine, lidocaine, colloidal oatmeal and sodium bicarbonate may help stop the itching.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen may provide pain relief from inflammation.
Try not to scratch bug bites to avoid broken skin and infection. Keep nails trimmed short.
Seek medical help for serious reactions
Most bites and stings can be treated at home, but some can cause serious reactions or illness.
- Symptoms include sneezing; wheezing; hives; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; sudden anxiety; dizziness; difficulty breathing; chest tightness; and itching or swelling of the eyes, lips, or other areas of the face.
- Symptoms appear within seconds or minutes and may be life-threatening.
- Call 911.
- Ask your doctor if an EpiPen will benefit you.
- Symptoms include fever, headaches, fatigue and a red circular rash that looks like a bull’s-eye.
- Symptoms may develop over several weeks.
- Ask your doctor about being evaluated for tick-borne illness.
Care My Way® may be able to help prevent Lyme disease if you do have a tick bite. Download the app to get started.