How to avoid creepy-crawly summer bugs

A slew of buzzing critters are just waiting for an opportunity to sink their teeth into us during garden dinners or yoga class outdoors. Here's how to avoid them.
mosquito bite
Photo via Flickr/James Jordan


Some of the more adventurous activities in our Summer Wellness Guide will get you off the pavement and into nature. Take heed, New Yorkers:

SelfWe’re not the only ones heading outside this summer. A slew of critters are buzzing about just waiting for an opportunity to sink their teeth into us. And while most bites and stings are just minor annoyances that itch like crazy and produce ugly, little welts that go away in a few days, some demand a little more TLC.

How can you avoid becoming a bug’s lunch? Read on for some stay-healthy tips:

1. Mosquitoes—The hotter the weather is, the more active flies and mosquitoes are. Mosquitoes, in particular, gather near standing water like ponds, marshes or your niece’s inflatable pool, since that’s where the lady buggers lay their eggs. So get rid of standing water (that includes Fido’s bowl!). If you do get blood-sucked, disinfect the bite thoroughly with soap and water, then apply an antiseptic (like witch hazel). If the itching is really bad, pop an antihistamine (like Claritin or Zytec) and use cold compresses and calamine lotion to calm things down.

2. Bees, wasps and hornets—Bees are buzzing in the summer when pollen counts are at their highest. To minimize your chances of getting stung, don’t smell like a flower (yes, that means lose your favorite rose-scented lotion). Bees are attracted to fragrances and perfumes — and when they find out you’re not a flower, they get mad. If you’re being pursued by a buzzing horde, run indoors, jump into water or head for the woods. Still get stung? “Call 911 if you have a previous allergy or you develop shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing or speaking,” says James Kocjancic, M.D., an emergency physician at UPMC-Hamot in Erie, Penn. “Otherwise, scrape the stinger off (a credit card works well).” Just don’t squeeze the stinger because you may inadvertently squeeze more venom into your system. Use an antihistamine, cool compresses and calamine lotion to help ease the pain.

3. Ticks—Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, which makes them Public Enemy Number One. If a “bull’s-eye” lesion appears at the bite site, visit your doc stat, says Kocjancic. If you’re spending any time outdoors, especially in wooded or high-grass areas — even grassy dunes — wear light-colored (and lightweight) clothing, including long-sleeved T-shirts, long pants and a hat. Tuck your shirt into your pants, your pants into your socks and wear boots, not sandals. Sprays, available at sporting goods stores, can help keep ticks away. If you still get a tick, remove it carefully with a pair of tweezers, making sure to remove the head and the limb (ticks’ mouth parts tend to get embedded in the skin). Then wash the area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to guard against infection.

4. Spiders—All spiders are poisonous, but most of them aren’t big enough or powerful enough to penetrate the skin and do much harm. If you do get bitten, wash the wound and disinfect it with an antiseptic, apply an ice pack to slow absorption of the venom, neutralize some of the poison by moistening it with water and rub in an aspirin tablet. If you think the bite came from a black widow or brown recluse — two deadly spiders — call your doctor or 911.

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