Don't bug me

Don't bug me

When we're exploring the wilderness or even our own backyard, summertime bug bites or poison ivy exposure are common.

Cheryl Hier, Pharmacy Manager at Leduc Co-op in Alberta, gave us some tips about how to deal with bug bites and poison ivy.

How can I prevent mosquito bites?

"Mosquito bites can be prevented by wearing light coloured clothing that covers skin, applying DEET-based or icaridin repellent and avoiding going outside at dusk or dawn when mosquitos are most active," said Hier.

There are a lot of considerations when using DEET or icaridin products. They aren't recommended for infants younger than six months, and children younger than 12 years old should only use up to 10% DEET repellants.

Hier also mentioned a natural repellent option, citronella, which is a lemon-scented oil derived from a plant that repels mosquitoes for 30 minutes to two hours. It's not as effective or long-lasting as DEET and not recommended for use on infants and toddlers.

How can mosquito bites be treated?

Resist the urge to scratch the mosquito bites to avoid a bacterial infection.

"Applying an ice pack or cold compress to the bite as soon as possible will reduce inflammation, itching, and discomfort," explained Hier.

Oral antihistamines such as Reactine or Benadryl may help with swelling and itching. Topical calamine lotion can safely reduce the itching, or over-the-counter 0.5% to 1% hydrocortisone cream may minimize redness and inflammation.

How should ticks be removed?

Ticks can spread Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, so Hier explained that it's extremely important to remove one as soon as you find it.

With tweezers, grasp its mouth parts as close to the skin as possible. Use gloves or tissue paper to handle the tick. Slowly pull the tick straight up and out, without squeezing or twisting the body which could empty its stomach into your bloodstream, creating a higher risk of infection.

Wash the bite site with soap and water or antiseptic wipe. Apply petroleum jelly to keep it from sticking to the bandage. Contact your doctor, taking the tick with you for analysis, and request preventative antibiotics.

What's the best way to treat bee or wasp stings?

Most insect stings need only simple first aid. Remove stingers immediately.

"A credit card can be used to scrape out the stinger," said Hier.

Wash the sting site with soap and water and apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream for itching and swelling. Apply an ice pack or cold compress to the bite for 15 minutes every hour to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. If more pain relief is required, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be taken. An oral antihistamine may also help with swelling.

If you're allergic, or if you've had a severe reaction in the past, seek immediate medical attention by calling 911. Take an oral antihistamine and use your epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) if you have been prescribed it.

Secondary allergic reactions may occur up to 12 hours after the initial one, Hier reminded us.

How do I deal with poison ivy?

Poison ivy rash symptoms include redness, itching and swelling that turns into small blisters on the affected area. The severity of the rash depends on the amount of oily resin that gets on your skin. The reaction usually develops 12 to 48 hours after exposure and lasts two to three weeks.

Wash any areas of your skin that came into contact with soap and cold water. Cold water should be used because hot water opens the pores, increasing the chances of the resin being deeply absorbed into the skin.

Treat mild cases of poison ivy rash with topical calamine lotion or an oatmeal-based cream like Aveeno and cool oatmeal-based baths. Take an oral antihistamine for severe reactions.

"You may need prescription medication for a rash that's severe or widespread," said Hier.

If you scratch an itchy poison ivy rash, bacteria under your fingernails may cause an infection. See a physician if pus starts oozing from the blisters.

With these summertime tips in mind, the outdoors can truly be great!

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