It’s that time of year again. Summer means bug bites. Most bug bites are not serious. The most common bug bites come from bees, wasps, and mosquitos. Less common bug bites include fleas, spiders, and ticks. A bug bite might itch, sting, swell, or turn red. The only sure way to avoid them is to stay indoors. But if you want to enjoy the outdoors, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of a bite.

Path to improved well being

There are no guarantees you can avoid a bug bite. However, these tips can help:

  • Avoid areas where you know there are bug.
  • Apply bug spray.
  • Dress appropriately (long sleeves and long pants).
  • Prepare for allergic reactions. Keep antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (brand name: Benadryl), or epinephrine on hand. You can buy many antihistamines over-the-counter, but epinephrine is a prescription medicine.
  • Cover food.

If you have been bitten by a bug, follow these steps to relieve the discomfort:

  • Remove bee stinger.
  • Wash the bite with soap and water.
  • Take acetaminophen (one brand: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (one brand: Advil) for pain.
  • Take diphenhydramine (brand name: Benadryl) for the itching.
  • Apply an anti-itch cream to the bite.
  • Watch for changes in the bite, such as a rash.
  • See your doctor if the bite worsens.
  • Apply a cold compress to the bite.

Things to consider

While most bug bites are harmless, there is some danger associated with the bites.

  • Beware of signs of a serious allergic reaction. Symptoms may include tightness in your chest; swelling in your throat; swelling of your lips, face, or tongue; dizziness; and nausea or vomiting.
  • Before you travel outside the U.S., research the types of insects that are common to the region you are visiting. Some insects are more common during certain times of the year.
  • Certain spider bites contain venom. This includes bites from the Brown recluse and Scorpions (originally from the spider family). In some cases, the venom can be deadly.
  • Certain types of ticks can result in long-term illness. A bite from a deer tick can lead to Lyme disease. Learn how to remove a tick properly to avoid trapping it under your skin.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Do bug bites leave scars?
  • Should I go to an emergency room if I feel strange after a bug bite?
  • Do certain environments appeal to bugs (ponds, tall grass, etc.)

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Ticks

U. S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus: Insect Bites and Stings

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