Bugs Got You Down?
One of the biggest benefits of living in sunny Central Florida is being outside, enjoying the weather all year long. But that also means we’re fair game for insects. Mosquitoes often feel like pests, we all know how annoying the itching can be, but it’s important to remember that all sorts of bugs, mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and some flies, can spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Zika, dengue, and Lyme Disease.
Prevention is Key
You’ve heard the expression, “The Best Defense is a Good Offense.” The same principle can and should be applied to the prevention of bug bites in the first place.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Be careful with bug repellents not registered with the EPA – their efficacy is unknown. This includes lots of repellents labelled “natural.”
- Always follow the product label instructions and reapply as directed. Don’t spray repellent on your skin under clothing, and remember, if you’re using sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first, and insect repellent second.
- Keep insect repellents out of reach of kids. Babies younger than 2 months old should not use bug repellent at all, instead dress them in clothes that cover their arms and legs. Children under 3 should not use products containing OLE or PMD and no matter what their age, don’t apply insect repellent to children’s hands, eyes, mouths, cuts, or irritated skin. Instead, spray the repellent onto your hands, then rub it on their face.
- Treat clothing and gear with 0.5% permethrin (an insecticide). You can buy pre-treated clothes or treat your own clothes. Avoid using permethrin directly on the skin.
- When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Some bugs, such as tsetse flies, can bite through thin fabric.
But IF You Get Bitten…
Sometimes, despite all our best intentions and attempts at prevention, we still become a tasty snack for pesky insects. If you have serious symptoms after a bug bite, like a rash, fever, or body aches, see your doctor immediately. Tell them about your recent bite so that they can check for a transmitted disease. But fear not, most bites and stings can be safely treated at home.
- If a bite or sting is painful, a cold pack can help, especially if there’s swelling. Some dermatologists recommend an over-the-counter painkiller, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Always follow the directions on the label and use the correct dose. And don’t forget, you might need to remove a stinger. For guidance, check out https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/injured-skin/bug-bites-and-stings/how-to-treat-a-bee-sting.
- If a bite is really itchy, apply an ice pack or an over-the-counter anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone. Another option is to take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine.
Need more info?
We’ve only covered the basics when it comes to insects and safety. To learn more, check out these sources: