Bug Bites and Stings Jul 6, 2021 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team
Are you planning on spending time outdoors this month? Say hiking, gardening, hunting, camping, or even walking the dog? If so, be prepared to encounter some of nature’s biggest threats — bug bites and stings. Most bites and stings are itchy but ultimately harmless; however, some bugs carry infectious diseases that can be spread to humans and pets. With that in mind, it’s important to protect yourself. In this blog, we’ll share what you need to know about how to prevent and treat bug bites and stings.
Preventing Bug Bites and Stings
- Put on Insect Repellent - Using insect repellent may be the best thing that you can do to protect yourself from bites and stings. Look for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. If you’re wearing sunscreen (which you should be!), put that layer on first and then spray on your repellant. Apply on both exposed skin and clothing. Follow the directions on the bottle for more information.
- Wear Protective Clothing - Before you head outdoors, cover your skin with protective clothing. If you know you’re going to be in wooded or brushy areas, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, long socks, closed-toe shoes, and a hat. It’s a good idea to tie back your hair as well. Permethrin-treated clothing can lower your risk of getting bitten or stung — try treating it on your own or buying it pre-treated.
- Use a Bed Net - Unfortunately, bugs bite all day and night. If you’re sleeping in a tent or in an unscreened cabin, bring a bed net with you. When purchasing a bed net, choose one that is compact, white, rectangular, with 156 holes per square inch, and long enough to tuck under the mattress. You can find nets that are permethrin-treated also.
- Watch for Outbreaks - The CDC posts Travel Health Notices about current health issues that impact travelers’ health, like the Zika Virus or malaria. Pay attention to their warnings and recommendations.
Treatment of Bug Bites and StingsEven while taking precautions, you still may get bit or stung. Luckily, most bites and stings can be treated at home. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, here’s what you can do:
- Painful Bites - Take an over-the-counter painkiller (acetaminophen or ibuprofen). Follow the directions and take the correct dosage.
- Itchy Bites - Place an ice pack on the affected area. Apply an over-the-counter anti-itch cream (hydrocortisone) or take an oral antihistamine.
- Reduce Swelling - Apply an ice pack on the affected area.
Identifying Common Bug Bites and StingsMost bites and stings cause itchy and red bumpy skin, but how can you tell what kind of insect bit you? Here are some common indicators:
- Bed Bug Bite - Large circles of bites on the skin that are red, itchy, and swelling.
- Chigger Bite - Although it’s a painless bite, the skin will turn itchy, red, and bumpy which looks similar to poison ivy.
- Bee Sting - Red or pink welt with a central white spot where the stinger punctured the skin.
- Flea Bite - Itchy welt on the skin often found on the ankles and legs.
- Mosquito Bite - A small punctured center that leads to raised, itchy pink bumps.
- Fire Ants Bite and Sting - Red center bite surrounded by colored rings. A cloudy fluid may develop inside the bite.
- Spider Bite - Red skin, swelling, and pain in the affected area.
- Tick Bite - Rash that looks like an expanding bull’s eye.