When you’re enjoying a family beach vacation or mountain adventure (or just a paid time off escape from the office), you don’t want your fun spoiled by the stings or bites of annoying pests.
When you’re enjoying a family beach vacation, mountain adventure or just some quiet time in the back yard, you don’t want your summer fun spoiled by the stings or bites of annoying pests. Here are five common summer bug bites and how to prevent them:
Mosquitoes are aggressive biters that are out in search of a meal both day and night and are usually found in or near standing water or damp areas. Mosquitoes can spread several serious and potentially fatal diseases, including Zika, West Nile, Dengue fever, encephalitis, malaria and yellow fever. Most of these diseases are prevalent in other countries, but human cases of Zika and West Nile virus have been reported in the U.S. over the last few years. The red, itchy welts from mosquito bites are caused by an allergic reaction your body has to the mosquito's saliva.
To prevent mosquito bites:
- Avoid mosquitoes. Try to avoid areas of standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs. These can include ponds, fountains, rainwater trapped in kid's toys or tires, etc.
- Cover up. Wear loose fitting, long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks to keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
- Cover gaps in clothing by tucking your shirt into your pants and your pants into your shoes or boots. You may not make a fashion statement, but your skin will thank you.
- Keep mosquitoes outside. Keep the windows and doors closed, and make sure screens are in good condition.
- Wear an insect repellent with DEET. When used as directed, insect repellent with DEET is an effective way to prevent mosquito bites. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), even children and pregnant women should use repellent. Be sure to follow directions on the bottle or can for most effective and appropriate use. When applying insect repellent, keep repellent away from your eyes and apply only to exposed skin or clothing. You don’t need to put it on under your clothes. Apply repellent to children by putting in on your hands and rubbing it on the child. Don’t put it on their hands, since they often put their hands in their mouths and rub their eyes.
Ticks are usually found in and near tall grass, shrubs and trees. Tick bites can cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and Colorado tick fever.
To prevent tick bites:
- Cover up. Wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks.
- Mind the gap. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your shoes.
- Walk in the middle of the trail when hiking to avoid contact with surrounding foliage.
- Avoid tall, wild grasses and overgrown areas.
- Check your hair and skin for ticks. Per the CDC, to remove a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick near its head. Pull upward with steady, even pressure so the tick’s mouth-parts don’t break off and remain in your skin. After you remove the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, iodine scrub or soap and water. Get rid of a live tick by submersing it in rubbing alcohol, putting it in a sealed bag or container or flushing it down the toilet. Don’t crush a tick with your fingers.
Bed bugs are small parasites that like to nest in beds and feed on the blood of sleeping people. So far it hasn’t been demonstrated that they can transmit disease through biting, but bed bug bites can cause itchy welts on the skin and may lead to secondary infection.
To prevent bed bug bites:
Inspect your hotel room. Check the sheets, mattress, box spring, bed frame, both sides of the headboard and the inside and back of the nightstand for these signs of bed bugs.
- Small rusty or reddish blood stains on the sheets, caused when bed bugs are crushed
- Small dark spots that may be bed bug feces
- Tiny (1 mm) eggs or egg shells
- Live bed bugs (reddish-brown and about the size of an apple seed)
- Bed bugs like to settle in corners, so check these areas carefully. If you see signs of bed bugs, request another room that is not next to or immediately above or below the infested room. Store luggage as high as possible, away from the bed. Place your suitcase on a luggage rack or dresser instead of on the floor or bed. Hang clothes in the closet instead of putting them in dresser drawers, where bed bugs may be hiding.
After your vacation, inspect your belongings before you take them inside. Wash and dry infested clothes on the hottest setting to remove bed bugs. Vacuum or steam-clean your luggage.
Small biting flies are often referred to by different names, including no-see-ums and sandflies. These tiny (1 to 3 mm long) two-winged flies are found in coastal areas, particularly near swamps or salt marshes, as well as in southwestern deserts. Only the females bite, taking blood for their developing eggs. Their bites cause a burning sensation. Reactions to no-see-um bites range from small red welts to allergic reactions with significant itching. No-see-ums are most active at dusk and dawn, with some biting occurring throughout the night. The bugs rarely bite during the day, unless it’s an overcast day with calm winds.
To prevent biting midge bites:
- Stay indoors between dusk and dawn (peak biting times).
- If you must spend time outdoors at night, apply insect repellent labeled for biting midges.
- Use a tent with “biting midge screening” that has a mesh size that’s smaller than normal window screening.
- Use a high-speed ceiling fan in screened porches to increase air movement.
- Pesticide sprays are not an effective way to control biting midges.
If you disturb a nest of fire ants, you may get stung many times. Each ant can sting multiple times. The reaction to fire ant stings ranges from a painful bite mark to a swollen foot or arm to a life-threatening allergic reaction. Within 8 to 24 hours of being stung, you may see a blister filled with fluid. Fire ants are generally found in the soil of pastures and lawns, which can contain a dozen or more mounds. Mounds aren't necessarily obvious or easy to see, so take caution when traveling through these areas.
To prevent fire ant stings:
- Take a survey of your area and make notice of any visible fire ant mounds. You'll want to avoid these.
- Be aware of your surroundings when traveling through pastures or lawns or sitting around a campfire. You could accidentally step on or sit in a shallow fire ant mound that's not easily visible.
- Wear shoes and socks when you walk outside.
- Be cautious when picking up food or trash.
Insect repellent doesn’t work well against fire ants. If fire ants climb on you, don't panic. Brush them off of your skin and clothes.
By following these prevention strategies, you can help protect your family from uncomfortable and potentially harmful bug bites on your beach, mountain or city vacation. Immediately contact a physician should you experience any difficulties after being bitten or stung by a pest.