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Published on July 12, 2022

Your Guide to Treat Bug Bites and Bee Stings This Summer

man and woman sitting in front of tent

By Cody Miller, EvergreenHealth Staff Writer

They are among the ultimate persistent nuisances: bug bites and bee stings. For those with allergies or other medical conditions, they can even be dangerous.

Stings from bees, wasps or hornets can ruin a fun-filled pool day with the family or a picnic in the park with absolutely no warning. Meanwhile, bug bites typically show up as unwelcome souvenirs from an otherwise enjoyable day outdoors.

While few bites or stings are the same, there are ways to stop, or at least minimize, the itching pain and salvage the fun outside, even when you forget your bug repellent.

Bug Bites

Normally, bug bites are simply annoying, but some bugs like fleas, flies and mosquitoes can carry diseases like Zika and Lyme.

If you're heading on a hike, going camping or doing work with animals, you are at increased risk for bug bites. but there are ways to try and prevent bug bites.

The best thing to do before heading outside is put on insect repellent after you apply your sunscreen.

You can also use insect repellent containing Permethrin to put on your clothing, however, you should let your clothes dry for at least two hours before putting them on. Cover as much of your skin as you can, especially if you plan on going out in dense woods or are going out at night.

If prevention doesn't work and you get bit, here are steps you can take to prevent infection and reduce irritation:

  1. Wash the bite with soap and water to prevent infection.
  2. Apply a cold pack or ice to the bite to reduce swelling and soothe your skin. If swelling begins occurring in other parts of your body, you have difficulty breathing, you become nauseous or dizzy or develop hives then you are likely experiencing an allergic reaction and should go to the emergency room right away.
  3. Take over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Also, over-the-counter anti-itch creams can help prevent scratching, which can cause infection.

For mosquito bites, the CDC suggests a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda and a splash of water to reduce itching. Use just enough water to create a paste, apply it to the bite and wait 10 minutes. This helps remove the saliva mosquitoes inject into your skin when they bite.

Bee Stings

Although a common occurrence in the summertime, a bee sting can ruin a perfect day. Bee stings can produce different reactions, ranging from temporary pain and discomfort to a severe allergic reaction, so it's important to be prepared when spending time outside.

There are several ways to prevent getting stung such as tightly covering sweet drinks and food containers, not wearing bright colors or floral prints that can attract bees and wearing close-toed shoes while outside.

If you do get stung by a bee or wasp, do your best not to react or panic. Bees, wasps and hornets can respond if you behave panicked and others may continue stinging you. Walk away from the area as calmly as possible.

Remove the stinger if it remains in your skin by scraping your fingernail or a piece of gauze over the bite. Don't use tweezers since squeezing the stinger could cause more venom to release into your skin. When possible, wash the sting with soap and water to prevent infection and monitor for worsening reactions.

Ticks

If you're heading out into the woods or a heavily-grassy area, you may be exposed to ticks. These are small critters that attach to your skin and feed on your blood.

If you're going on a hike, remember to walk in the center of trails to avoid heavily wooded areas or places with tall grass. If you can't avoid these areas, wear long sleeves and pants. For extra protection, tuck the bottom of your pants into your socks.

Continue checking your entire body for any ticks that may have attached themselves to you while out in these kinds of environments. Make sure to check your furry friends too! If you do find one, here are the steps you should take:

  1. Use sterile tweezers to remove the tick
  2. Pull the tick upward off the skin steadily without crushing it
  3. Dispose of the tick by placing it in a sealed bag or container, submersing it in alcohol or wrapping it tightly in tape
  4. Clean the area where the tick bit you with soap and water.

If you develop a rash, fever or body aches following a tick bite, schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.

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