June 19, 2015
Biting and stinging insects can turn your hiking or camping trip into a painful, itchy nightmare—unless you protect yourself.
With the arrival of summer, many of us can’t wait to get into the woods, but the first wildlife we encounter may not be what we were hoping for. Consider the following dos and don’ts to help keep bees, wasps, mosquitoes and ticks from cutting your excursion short.
Bees and Wasps
Do watch what you wear and what you put on your skin. Bees and wasps are attracted to brightly colored clothes and strong odors, so wear neutral colors and refrain from using perfume, cologne or scented soap.
Don’t leave picnic baskets uncovered or dine near open trash cans—bees and wasps are attracted to food, particularly fruit, and sugary drinks.
Do scrape away the insect’s stinger if you’re stung rather than attempting to pull it out with your fingers or tweezers. The back of a knife or a credit card makes for a good scraper.
Don’t forget to clean the area with soap and water after removing the stinger. Use ice to dull the pain.
Do go outside during the middle of the day. Mosquitoes are typically more active during the morning and evening. No matter what time of day you venture outdoors, however, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, if possible.
Don’t apply mosquito repellent only to exposed skin; spray your clothes, too, because mosquitoes can bite through many types of fabric. Only use repellents containing ingredients that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to prevent mosquito bites.
Do reduce mosquito bites’ itch by applying hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion. Repeatedly scratching the bites can break the skin and lead to infection.
Don’t allow mosquito repellent to remain on your skin for more than a day. Wash it off each night after applying during the day.
Do stick to the middle of the trail when hiking. Walking along the edges or venturing off-path through tall grass or beneath low-hanging tree branches gives ticks an opportunity to hitch a ride.
Don’t give ticks easy access to your skin. Cover up with clothing and tuck in shirt and pants hems. Wear insect repellent that is approved for fighting ticks.
Do take a shower as soon as you return from the woods, and perform a thorough tick check. Ticks gravitate to dark, warm areas of the body, so double-check your groin, belly button and scalp.
Don’t use your fingers to yank a tick from your body. Grasp the insect near its head with tweezers and slowly pull straight up, without shaking from side to side.
If an insect bite shows signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, pain or a failure to heal, see your primary care physician (PCP). Don’t have a PCP? Visit parkridgehealth.com/physicians to find one.