Tips to help you avoid bug bites this summer

June 30, 2014 by Stasia Thompson, Loyola University Health System

Summer means more bugs, including pesky mosquitoes and ticks. Our specialists have tips about which insects are harmful, what diseases they carry and how to safely avoid them.

"Mosquitoes and ticks are the two pests you primarily want to avoid because they can carry infectious diseases," said Jennifer Layden, MD, infectious disease specialist at Loyola University Health System. "Ticks can carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and mosquitoes can spread West Nile virus."

To avoid these pests, you may buy insect repellent. But what levels of protection do they offer?

DEET is the most effective ingredient to protect against biting insects. "Common insect repellent products contain up to 30 percent DEET for maximum protection," said Christina Hantsch, MD, a toxicologist at Loyola. "Products with DEET provide longer duration protection as the concentration of DEET increases."

The longest duration is up to five hours for 30 percent DEET concentration. "Use a product appropriate for the duration of the outdoor activity," Hantsch said. "I recommend avoiding extended chemical product exposure by changing clothes and washing off insect repellent with soap and water when you come inside."

DEET and other insect repellants such as citronella are generally safe for individuals over 2 months of age. To use a specific product correctly, follow the directions on the package. "Check labels to use a product that is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as an added measure of safety," Layden said. "I usually recommend that the product be reapplied every few hours to maintain effectiveness."

Layden recommended that adults administer to children. "Kids can have a difficult time manipulating cans and bottles. You want to avoid inhaling repellent or getting it in the mouth or eyes," she said.

Clothing that is pretreated with repellent is available and remains effective through many washings. "Permethrin-treated fabric is a great option for those who are very active outdoors in the warm months," Layden said. "Treated clothing is safe and approved."

Tips from Dr. Layden on how to avoid bugs this summer:

  • Dusk and dawn are the prime hours for insects
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants to cover skin
  • Wear light colors, which don't attract bugs as much as darker colors
  • Wear loose clothing to avoid skin irritation

"Calamine lotion is effective to take away the annoying itch of a mosquito bite," Hantsch said. For tick removal, use a tweezer as close to the entry of the skin as possible to remove the whole tick. "Clean the bite area with an antiseptic and cover with a loose bandage."

Signs that you need medical attention include fever, vomiting, excessive sleepiness, swelling, redness and infection.

Explore further: Insect repellents more important than ever as tropical tourism increases

Related Stories

Insect repellents more important than ever as tropical tourism increases

June 2, 2014
Holidaymakers are being urged to use insect repellent to protect themselves against bites and the diseases they can spread, as trends show travel to tropical countries is rising among Britons.

Researcher warns West Nile virus could have a bite this summer

June 23, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Plentiful spring snow and rain, combined with recent hot temperatures on the Front Range, set the stage for an unusually high number of mosquitoes this summer – and potentially high rates of West Nile ...

Lyme disease on the uptick in upstate New York

July 26, 2013
Why are Lyme disease-carrying deer tick populations growing in central New York?

Tick season starting early this year

April 23, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Tick season has started earlier than normal due to the mild winter, which means hikers, gardeners and others who love the outdoors should take precautions to prevent becoming a meal for ticks, an expert says.

Recommended for you

When the eyes move, the eardrums move, too

January 23, 2018
Simply moving the eyes triggers the eardrums to move too, says a new study by Duke University neuroscientists.

Cognitive training helps regain a younger-working brain

January 23, 2018
Relentless cognitive decline as we age is worrisome, and it is widely thought to be an unavoidable negative aspect of normal aging. Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, ...

Lifting the veil on 'valence,' brain study reveals roots of desire, dislike

January 23, 2018
The amygdala is a tiny hub of emotions where in 2016 a team led by MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye found specific populations of neurons that assign good or bad feelings, or "valence," to experience. Learning to associate pleasure ...

Your brain responses to music reveal if you're a musician or not

January 23, 2018
How your brain responds to music listening can reveal whether you have received musical training, according to new Nordic research conducted in Finland (University of Jyväskylä and AMI Center) and Denmark (Aarhus University).

New neuron-like cells allow investigation into synthesis of vital cellular components

January 22, 2018
Neuron-like cells created from a readily available cell line have allowed researchers to investigate how the human brain makes a metabolic building block essential for the survival of all living organisms. A team led by researchers ...

Finding unravels nature of cognitive inflexibility in fragile X syndrome

January 22, 2018
Mice with the genetic defect that causes fragile X syndrome (FXS) learn and remember normally, but show an inability to learn new information that contradicts what they initially learned, shows a new study by a team of neuroscientists. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.