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Keep Your Summer Free From Insect Bites

08-14-2017

This time of year, it’s hard to avoid pesky insect bites. Whether you’re going for a hike in the woods or relaxing in your own backyard, mosquitoes and ticks are everywhere. While your kids are having fun playing outdoors for all hours of the day, you may be worrying about them coming home covered in bug bites. You can’t always prevent bites, but there are steps you can take to try and avoid them, as well as ways to treat them effectively.

Where They Hide

Unfortunately, mosquitoes can live in almost any environment that isn’t extremely cold. Forests, marshes, tall grasses, and weeds are some of their favorite areas. There are two types of mosquitoes: permanent water mosquitoes and floodwater mosquitoes. Permanent water mosquitoes lay their eggs in clumps of 50 to 300 near lakes or ponds. Some species prefer clean water, while others, like the northern house mosquito, prefer polluted water. Floodwater mosquitoes lay their eggs in moist soil. Their likely habitats include drainage ditches, woodland pools, floodplains, pastures, fields, and meadows.

Ticks are most active when the weather is warm, especially during the afternoon when it’s hotter and dryer. Many people make the mistake of assuming ticks only live in the woods, but they can also infiltrate your backyard, patio, playground equipment, or any other outdoor area around your home. If you can, position these areas away from shrubs, bushes, or other vegetation.

How to Prevent Bites

In addition to being painful and irritating, mosquito and tick bites can also lead to serious disease. Ticks can spread Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Mosquitoes can spread the West Nile virus, malaria, and the Zika virus.

To prevent bites before they become an issue, use an effective insect repellent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends checking the label for one of the following ingredients:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin
  • IR 3535
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus

If you’re using repellent on a child, use a product with 30% or less of these ingredients. Use the repellent whenever you’re outdoors, and put a few bottles of it somewhere that might come in handy, such as in your car or by the door.

To avoid tick bites, consider using tick control chemicals in your yard, which can be applied by a professional pest control expert. After being outside, check for ticks on yourself, your kids, or your pets. Ticks are most likely to hide under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in the hair. Bathing right after you get inside can also help you to find ticks quickly and remove them.

How to Treat a Mosquito Bite

Although it’s best to try to avoid bug bites altogether, that’s not always possible. If you suffer a mosquito bite, here are some steps you can take to treat it:

  • Clean the bite with warm, soapy water
  • Use an ice pack to reduce swelling
  • Take an antihistamine to relieve itchiness
  • Avoid scratching to reduce the risk of infection

If none of these traditional treatments work for you, it may be time to try a home remedy. Toothpaste is one of the most popular home remedies, as the menthol flavor of the toothpaste helps to soothe the bite. Natural antibiotics in honey help to reduce swelling, while aloe vera is a natural antiseptic agent and helps to reduce the pain, swelling, and itching. Other popular home remedies include a banana peel, vapor rub, and ice.

Removing a Tick and Treating a Tick Bite

If you find a tick on yourself or a loved one, don’t panic—just follow these simple instructions to remove and treat it quickly:

  • Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward, don’t twist or jerk the tick.
  • After successfully removing it, clean the area that was bitten and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  • If the tick is alive, submerse it in alcohol, place it in a sealed bag, wrap it tightly in tape, or flush it down the toilet. Never crush it with your fingers.

When to See a Doctor

As long as the tick is removed within 24 hours, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get Lyme disease. Symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash and fever. If you start to feel aches and pains or experience chills, this could be a sign of a tick-borne illness. See your doctor immediately if any of these symptoms occur.

Fever, fatigue, and headaches are the most common symptoms of mosquito-borne illnesses. Symptoms of West Nile virus include back pain, nausea, and body aches. People suffering from malaria typically experience chills, uneasiness, and sweating even though the body temperature is falling. Visit a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, especially if you travel somewhere where mosquitoes are common.

Take Precautions!

Mosquitoes and ticks are everywhere during the summer months, so take the proper steps to ensure you and your family avoid getting bit! Learn more about mosquitoes here, or contact your primary care provider if you believe you have a bite that requires medical attention.



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