Summertime Brings Bug Bites and Allergic Reactions

With more time spent outdoors during the summer season, our exposure to bugs and the annoyances they bring increases. Beyond just itchy bumps, insect bites can cause severe allergic reactions that may require immediate medical attention. Knowing how to treat a bug bite, identifying your body’s reaction to them, and avoiding the places bugs like to spend their time, will help keep you safe during the dog days of the year.

If you become the victim of an insect bite, you have several options to treat your wounds. Antihistamines will help to stop itching and lessen swelling for most bites and stings, while acetaminophen can help relieve any pain. You can also use Ibuprofen to help reduce swelling and relieve some pain. If you would rather use a topical solution to help control the itching, you can pick up 1% hydrocortisone creams at most drugstores without a prescription.

Mosquitoes can carry diseases like the West Nile virus, Zika virus, Dengue fever, and Malaria

Sometimes, though, bee stings or bug bites can create severe allergic reactions. These may include:

  • Difficulty Swallowing and Throat Tightness
  • Nausea
  • Redness or Hives
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Swelling of the Face, Lips, or Tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing

If any of these symptoms show up, it could be a sign of a systemic allergic reaction. Call 911 right away. If an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) is available, use it immediately.

Outside of allergic reactions, many untreatable illnesses can derive from bug bites like Zika, dengue fever and Lyme disease. Babies, children, and pregnant women are especially prone to many of the symptoms that develop from bug bites. So, prevention is key.

A good insect repellent will help chase away insects from your skin. When choosing a spray, search the label for a protection symbol like this.

EPA Insect Repellent Protection Sample Symbol

Manufacturers of insect repellent can apply for this symbol through the US Environmental Protection Agency. The graphic identifies the type of pest the product is expected to repel and the amount of time the repellent will be effective. If you are searching for a product to combat a specific pest or are looking for a particular active ingredient, the EPA has a tool that will help you choose the most appropriate insect repellent for your needs here.

Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat can greatly reduce your exposure to bug bites. To maximize protection, tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pants into your socks.

Areas with standing water, especially in the shade, are a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Empty standing water from birdbaths, buckets, or small childrens’ pools when not in use. Also, try to stay inside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Many flying insects with stingers like hornets and wasps make their nests in bushes, trees and outside of buildings. Use a special spray to destroy these nests or call an exterminator to remove them for you.

The key is knowing where pests usually hideout and actively taking preventative measures minimize your contact with them. Following these simple bits of advice will help keep the bugs at bay this summer.