Don’t Let Summer Take A Bite Out Of You!
Summer’s in full swing and that means days at the beach, picnics in the park, and weekend camping trips. But with summertime fun comes uninvited visitors – mosquitoes, ants, ticks, bees and wasps. A bite from any of these insects can quickly spoil your fun. Whether in Canada or travelling abroad here’s what you can do to protect yourself from those pesky insects.
Dress for Success!
- Minimize exposed areas of your skin by wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants. Tuck in shirts and pants into socks, especially in areas where there may be ticks (long grass and wooded areas).
- Cover your feet with closed shoes rather than sandals.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours so wearing light coloured clothing is best to avoid bites
- Avoid strongly scented products (perfume, cologne, hair products)
- Treat clothing, tents and mosquito nets with Permethrin when travelling to an area with high risk of malaria or other mosquito borne diseases (follow product instructions and do not apply to skin)
- If not sleeping in a sealed or air-conditioned room when travelling to areas with mosquito borne diseases, use a Permethrin-impregnated bed net and tuck in around the bed at all times.
- Apply insect repellent to all exposed non sensitive areas of the body (follow product instructions)
Choosing a Repellent
DEET, icaridin, citronella, eucalyptus – the choices are almost endless! How to choose a repellent:
Chemical vs Natural Products
When travelling to areas with mosquito borne diseases (eg. malaria, dengue, zika, Japanese Encephalitis, chikunguyna) the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends the use of a repellent that contains either DEET or icaridin:
- The most effective repellents contain DEET (10% for children 2-12 years and 30% for adults)
- A more gentle alternative contains 20% icaridin (safe for babies >6 months)
Botanical repellents containing eucalyptus, citronella, soybean oil, geranium oil and castor oil are available but there is insufficient evidence available to prove their effectiveness. These may do the trick during Canadian summer months but for travel to areas with mosquito borne diseases it’s best to stick with DEET or icaridin.
Tips for Applying Repellents:
- Insect repellents are available in spray, lotions, or wipes. Avoid spraying repellent near face, eyes, and food, and wash hands after applying. Do not use over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- If using sunscreen, apply repellent 15-20 minutes after the sunscreen is applied.
- DEET and icaridin can be used when pregnant or breastfeeding but should not be applied directly to the abdomen or nipple area.
- When applying repellent to children adults should spray first on their own hands, then spread onto the child’s exposed skin while avoiding the child’s hands, eyes, mouth and sparingly around the ears.
I’ve been eaten alive!….now what??
Despite your best efforts you ended up with a few bites. Here’s a few ways to soothe your bites:
- Itching can be temporarily relieved by applying a product to the bite containing ammonia (i.e. afterbite), calamine lotion, or an over the counter cortisone cream.
- Applying cold compress with ice can also help to temporarily relieve itching and help with swelling
- For people who experience more severe reactions to mosquito bites an over the counter antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Reactine), or loratadine (Claritin) can help relieve swelling an itching. Diphenhydramine may cause drowsiness so cetirizine or loratadine may be more suitable for daytime use. Read and follow the instructions on the labels and do not give antihistamines to your child without discussing with your doctor first.
- If you are stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet remain as quiet and calm as possible. Leave the area as the nest may be close by.
- Remove the stinger by flaking or scraping the stinger off your skin (don’t squeeze or pull the stinger as this may inject venom into your skin).
- After working or spending time in areas with leaves, tall grasses or woodpiles check your entire body for ticks, including groin, scalp and armpits.
- Use tweezers with a fine tip to remove the tick. The tick’s mouth will be stuck in your skin and the body will be above the skin.
- Don’t grab the tick from it’s swollen belly as this could push infected fluid into your body.
- Grab the tick from as close as it’s mouth as you can. Gently pull straight out until the tick’s mouth lets go of your skin. Don’t twist the tick as the body may break off leaving the head in your skin.
- After removing the tick was the area with warm soapy water.
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