Dr. Emily Arch educates us on those pesky bug bites that we all detest in the summer months.

Along with warmer weather, sunny days, and outdoor activities, insect bites are another reminder that summer is here!  While itchy and irritating, most people can manage these bites with some simple measures at home.

For immediate relief, use an ice pack (for no more than 15 minutes) on the affected area to help with swelling as well as an over-the-counter lotion or gel containing camphor and/or menthol to provide soothing relief from the itch. Oral antihistamines are also very useful for more widespread bites and can be obtained at most drug stores. For intensely inflamed bites, a topical steroid cream – either 1% hydrocortisone or a prescription strength version – twice daily for a few days will help to decrease swelling as well as symptoms.

For the unlucky individuals who end up with a bee or wasp sting, removal of the stinger, followed by thorough cleansing of the area with disinfectant soap, is important to prevent further release of venom. Lastly, for those of us with a severe allergy to bites and stings, never leave the house without your epinephrine autoinjector (Epi Pen).

As with many things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  This year is expected to be a boom year for tick populations and mosquito-borne illnesses. If possible, protective clothing should be worn when outdoors in tick-friendly areas or at times of peak mosquito activity.  When the weather won’t permit long sleeves and pants, effective insect repellents are critical to prevent bites and stings as well as transmission of Lyme disease and mosquito-borne viral disease. The most effective options are repellents containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus (with a concentration of 30% and this ingredient is not suggested for children under the age of 3), and Picaridin.  These are readily found over the counter and are safe, effective, and easy to use.

Hopefully following some of these tips help you to have a fun, bite-free summer!

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