Preventing and relieving insect bites

Preventing and relieving insect bites

Summer is finally here! That means sun, heat and short sleeves. Unfortunately, the delights of the warm season often come with the inconveniences of our cohabitation with insects. In fact, summer is the time of the year where we are most in contact with them. What can be more common than an insect bite! Insect bites and bee stings are relatively frequent.

However, these insects bite for completely different reasons. While the mosquito is in search for food, the bee is simply defending itself. A variety of things can be done to prevent and relieve insect bites.

Bees and mosquitoes—stay away!

It’s possible to prevent mosquito bites by following a few simple precautions. First, it’s important to know that mosquitoes are most active at dawn and at dusk.

When you go outdoors at these times of the day, make sure that you:

  • Wear light coloured and loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and long pants
  • Use insect repellent:
    • Not recommended for children under 6 months of age
    • Children aged 6 months to 2 years – use an insect repellent containing 10% DEET; do not apply more than once a day
    • Children aged 2 to 12 years – use an insect repellent containing 10% DEET, do not apply more than three times a day
    • 30% DEET – offers 6 hours of protection
    • 10% DEET – offers 3 hours of protection

Did you know that…

DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the key active ingredient found in a large number of insect repellents sold on the market. It is effective against mosquitoes and ticks. As for bees, you will most likely encounter them while eating outdoors. They are mostly attracted by sugar and food as well as coloured clothing, which they associate with the colour of flowers. If you see one near you, avoid any sudden movements.

The damage is done: what to do?

In the case of a mosquito bite, it is recommended to apply ice or a cold compress on the bite immediately to reduce the irritation caused by itching.

Then you can apply:

  • A cream containing 0.5% hydrocortisone
  • Calamine lotion (reduces inflammation and irritation)
  • Spray or roll-on deodorant (relieves irritation)
  • Anti-inflammatory lotion or anti-itch ointment

Bee stings are much more painful because of the venom that’s left behind. Treating a bee sting is slightly different from treating a mosquito bite.

It is recommended to:

  • Pull out the stinger by scraping the skin. Don’t squeeze it or use tweezers because you may release more venom this way.
  • Soak the wound in a solution of baking soda and water (one teaspoon of baking soda in one glass of water). Replace the baking soda with pure vinegar if you were stung by a wasp. Soak a cloth in the solution and dab the wound for a few minutes to reduce redness and swelling.
  • Exposure of the wound to a heat source like a flame or cigarette lighter, for example, will neutralize the venom.
  • Apply an aspirin paste to stop the itching (unless you are allergic to it). Crush one or two aspirin tablets in a mortar. Add a little water to make a paste that you can apply over the wound.
  • Apply ice wrapped in cloth and keep it on the sting for 20 minutes to 1 hour. The cold contracts the blood vessels, which slows the spread of the venom and numbs the pain and itching.

You can also…

  • Rub the wound with a slice of onion or crushed garlic. Both contain enzymes that act effectively against the venom. Sugar also works well. Dip your index finger in water, then in sugar and place it on the bite. In most cases the symptoms will disappear by themselves in a couple of days.

The West Nile virus

The West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquito is itself infected by feeding on the blood of a bird that carries the virus.

The West Nile virus is present in Quebec.

The infection attacks the central nervous system. In general, the infection causes relatively mild flu-like symptoms, but it is also completely asymptomatic in 80% of all cases.

Despite its small inconveniences, summer is a great season with health benefits that are much more important than a few insect bites. So take advantage of the warm weather and go play outside! Sources: