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How to Prevent Bug Bites This Summer

Find out how to keep yourself and your family safe from itchy bug bites, painful stings, and viruses spread by insects!

August 02, 2018 | HF Healthy Living Team

If you’re looking forward to spending some time at the park or the pool this summer, chances are, so are the mosquitoes! Summer is prime season for bug bites and bee stings. Here’s how you can help protect yourself and your children from itchy bites and insect-borne viruses.


  • Avoid being outside during dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most likely to swarm and bite
  • Keep your skin covered by wearing thin, light-colored long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Wear shoes—especially when walking in grass or around gardens—and socks and a hat if possible.
  • Tuck in your shirt and cover the hems of your pants with your socks when walking in wooded areas or in tall grasses to prevent tick bites
  • Avoid wearing bright colors and flowery prints, which can attract bees
  • Make sure your window screens have no tears or holes
  • Use insect repellent (bug spray) on adults and on children aged two months and older


  • Play in or hang out around standing water—mosquitoes breed in pools of still water
  • Wear perfume or use scented soaps or sprays
  • Drink sugary drinks, because they can attract insects

In the event of a bee sting, use a credit card or fingernail to scrape out the stinger—never pinch or squeeze, as that can drive the stinger deeper and make the sting worse. Use soap and water to clean the sting. Apply ice or hydrocortisone cream to reduce swelling and itching.

If you or someone else has a reaction to a bite or sting—including hives, tightening of the throat, trouble breathing, vomiting, dizziness, or swelling of the face, eyes, tongue, or lips—call 9-1-1 right away.

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How to Use Insect Repellent

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using insect repellent (bug spray) containing DEET on adults and on children ages two months and older. Picaridin is an ingredient in insect repellent that serves as an alternative to DEET in concentrations between five and 10%. It can be effective in preventing bug bites but is not as long-lasting as DEET.

Choose insect repellent based on how long you will be outside—10% DEET provides protection from insects for about two hours, 30% for about five hours, and up to 50% for longer than five hours. Children and pregnant women should only use insect repellent containing 30% DEET or less.

Never use insect repellents containing oil of eucalyptus (OLE) or paramenthane-diol (PMD) on children younger than three years.

Dress children younger than two months in clothes that cover their skin, and cover them with lightweight blankets or use mosquito netting around cribs to keep away mosquitoes and other bugs.

To use insect repellent:

  • Go to an outside area or open space
  • Spray repellent onto your hands, then rub it onto your skin or your child’s (use repellent only on exposed skin—don’t use it under clothes)
  • Keep repellent away from cuts, scrapes, and irritated skin as well as mouths, eyes, and children’s hands
  • After coming indoors, wash off insect repellent with soap and water
  • Always keep insect repellent out of reach of children


  • Let children apply their own insect repellent
  • Use insect repellent around food you are going to eat
  • Use products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent, since DEET can lower the SPF of sunscreen. Sunscreen also needs to be reapplied more often than insect repellent should be used. When using insect repellent and sunscreen at the same time, apply sunscreen first, allow it to dry, then apply insect repellent.

If your child has an allergic reaction to insect repellent, stop using it immediately, wash your child’s skin with soap and water, and call POISON HELP (1-800-222-1222), your child’s doctor, or 9-1-1.

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Preventing Tick Bites

Ticks are often found in wooded or grassy areas. Tick bites can transmit bacteria and viruses like Lyme disease. It can take several hours for a tick to attach (bite) and begin spreading bacteria, so checking for ticks regularly can help prevent the spread of illnesses caused by tick bites.

  • Bathe or shower right away after coming indoors, especially if you’ve been around a lot of trees or brush
  • Check your body for ticks, including under your arms, in and around your ears, your belly button, backs of your knees, between your legs, around your waist, and your entire scalp. Always check children for ticks, too.
  • Dry your clothes on high heat for an hour if possible to kill ticks and other insects

If you find a tick that has attached, use a pair of tweezers to grip the tick at a point as close to the skin as possible. Keep pressure steady as you pull up—don’t twist, jerk, or squeeze harder, since that can cause the tick to break and leave part of it attached. Once you’ve removed the tick, clean the bite (and your hands) with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

Symptoms of diseases spread by ticks include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and rash around the bite. Call your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms, feel ill after being exposed to a tick, or think you might have an infection.

How To Avoid Zika Virus
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Zika Virus

Zika is a virus that can cause birth defects and fetal brain defects when spread from a pregnant woman to her child. Zika virus is most often spread through mosquito bites but can also be transmitted through sexual contact. Currently, there is no vaccine or medicine to prevent or treat Zika.

If you are pregnant, avoid traveling to areas with Zika outbreaks. If you live in or need to travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor. Be careful to avoid mosquito bites while traveling and for at least three weeks after returning, as Zika virus can be carried from one person to another by mosquitoes. Talk to your doctor immediately if you experience rash, fever, joint pain, or red eyes after traveling to an area with Zika outbreaks.

Help protect yourself and others from Zika by avoiding mosquito bites at all times and always practicing safe sex.


© 2018 HF Management Services, LLC

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

“2016 Summer Safety Tips,” American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed April 19, 2017.

“Avoid Bug Bites,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 21, 2016.

“Diseases Spread by Ticks,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 18, 2013.

“How to Safely Avoid Summer Bug Bites,” Children’s National Health System. July 21, 2015.

“Prevent Mosquito Bites,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January 17, 2017.

“Summer Bug Safety: Tips to Stay Bite-Free,” NorthShore University Health System. July 5, 2016.

“Summer Safety Tips: Insect Bites,” Child Development Institute. July 15, 2014.

“Zika: The Basics of the Virus and How to Protect Against It,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed April 19, 2017.

“Zika Virus,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 11, 2017.

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