Tips on How to Avoid Summer Bites, Stings and Rashes

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When summer rolls around, nothing beats soaking up the rays, hiking in a forest or playing Frisbee with the family … until a mosquito, bee or poisonous plant ruins the fun.

“Summer is the best of times and the worst,” said Christopher Ohl, M.D., professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “We finally have time to enjoy the outdoors, but we don’t always mingle well with nature.”

Ohl shares the following tips:

Mosquitoes

  • Wear proper clothing. Cover as much skin as possible.
  • Use insect repellent. Specifically, a 30 to 35 percent DEET-containing repellant.
  • Resist the urge to scratch. To ease the itch of a mosquito bite, apply over-the-counter one percent hydrocortisone cream. If you have a lot of bites, take an over-the-counter antihistamine tablet such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

Poison ivy, oak and sumac

  • Learn how to identify them. Study the unique features of each plant before heading out to a wooded area, and avoid them.
  • Cover up. Just like with mosquitoes, cover as much skin as you can.
  • Wash everything. Regularly wash clothing, garden tools, camping gear, dogs, yard toys, etc. that may come in contact with these plants. Urushiol, the oil that causes skin irritations, can stick to anything and transfer easily from one object to another.
  • Contain the urushiol. If you brush up against one of these plants, or touch something that did, wash the skin with soap and water to prevent the spread of urushiol.

Bees

  • Leave them alone: If one comes near, stay still. Never take a swipe at one.
  • Properly treat the sting: Remove the stinger and its attached venom sac as quickly as possible with your fingernail or tweezers. Once it’s gone, wash the area with soap and water. Finally, apply ice and take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
  • Allergic reaction. Know ahead of time if you or anyone in your group is allergic to bee stings. An epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) may be needed to prevent anaphylactic shock. Take proper emergency precautions including calling 911 if the person doesn’t recover quickly from the sting.

“Most of all, have fun this summer,” Ohl said. “Letting these pests gnaw at you could spoil the fun before it even begins.”

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Last Updated: 06-27-2014
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