bug bites

It’s bug-bite season – do you know how to protect yourself?

You step outside to enjoy the summer sun and before you know it, you’re covered in bug bites. Sound familiar? Insects thrive in hot and humid weather, which means outdoor activities during this time of year can quickly turn into a feeding frenzy if you don’t take precautions.

Bites from insects such as mosquitoes and ticks can cause annoying itchiness and spread more serious diseases, like Zika virus, West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Find out what you can do to keep you and your family safe from bug bites this summer.

Use insect repellent

Use EPA-registered insect repellents that contain DEET for protection against mosquitoes, ticks and other bugs. Other repellents protect against mosquitoes but may not be effective against ticks or other bugs.

If you are also using sunscreen, apply it first, let it dry and then apply repellent. Do not use products that contain both sunscreen and repellent. Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

Consider using clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks and tents) that are treated with permethrin, which is an insecticide. You can buy pre-treated clothes or treat your own clothes. If treating items yourself, follow instructions carefully. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.

Cover exposed skin

As much as possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and a hat.

Tuck your shirt into your pants and tuck your pants into your socks for maximum protection. Some bugs can bite through thin fabric.

Think about the indoors, too

Choose hotel rooms or other accommodations that are air conditioned or have good window and door screens so bugs can’t get inside. If bugs can get into where you are sleeping, sleep under a permethrin-treated bed net that can be tucked under the mattress.

Protect the little ones

Here are some helpful tips for applying repellent on children:

  • Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old.
  • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus on children younger than 3 years old.
  • Children should not touch repellent. Adults, apply it to your hands and gently spread it over the child’s exposed skin.
  • Do not apply repellent to children’s hands because they tend to put their hands in their mouths.
  • Keep repellent out of the reach of children.

For babies under 2 months old, protect them by draping mosquito netting over their carrier or car seat. Netting should have an elastic edge for a tight fit.

Pregnant women, be careful

Some infections, including Zika, can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus, so pregnant women should strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites while traveling. In the case of Zika, because infection in a pregnant woman is linked to serious birth defects and miscarriage, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that pregnant women not travel to areas with Zika outbreaks.

When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

When to seek help

If you’ve been bitten, be sure to see a doctor right away if you experience any of the following:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • The sensation that your throat is closing.
  • Swollen lips, tongue or face.
  • Chest pain.
  • A racing heartbeat that lasts more than a few minutes.
  • Dizziness.
  • Vomiting.
  • A headache.
  • A red, donut-shaped or target-shaped rash that develops after a tick bite. This could be a sign of Lyme disease, which should be treated with antibiotics.
  • A fever with a red or black, spotty rash that spreads. This could be a sign of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a bacterial infection carried by ticks, which should be treated immediately.

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