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Jen Janocha, PA-C
By Jen Janocha, PA-C on July 09, 2024

Don’t Bug Out! A Guide to Insect Bites & Prevention

Insect bites and stings are a common nuisance during warm summer months when people spend more time outdoors attracting insects with their body heat, sweat, and odor . While most bites and stings are harmless, it’s important to recognize the potential for severe medical conditions.   Here’s a breakdown of common insects and what you might expect from their bites or stings.


Mosquito bites are characterized by itchy, round red bumps. Despite some itching and discomfort, these bites are generally harmless. Keep in mind that mosquitoes can transmit diseases like West Nile virus or malaria in some regions, so it’s essential to be aware of local health advisories.


Bee stings are painful and can cause significant swelling. Some children may have allergic reactions to stings, ranging from mild swelling to severe anaphylaxis.  


Tick bites are often painless, but ticks can remain attached to the skin and require removal. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, so it’s crucial to identify and remove them promptly and monitor for signs of infection.


Most spider bites are harmless and result in minimal symptoms. Bites from some species, such as the black widow or brown recluse, can cause serious symptoms, including severe pain, muscle cramps, and necrotic lesions.     


Fire ants can deliver painful stings that cause a burning sensation and develop into pustules.  Multiple stings can occur rapidly, leading to a more intense reaction.  On the other hand, non-fire ants typically cause minor irritation and slight swelling.

Preventing Bug Bites

Here are some effective tips to keep the bugs at bay.

Cover up!

The best defense is good preparation. When heading outdoors, especially in woods or tall grass, dress in clothing that covers your arms and legs. And don’t forget a hat! Opt for light-colored clothing to easily spot ticks and other insects.

Avoid Dawn, Dusk, and Standing Water

Dawn and dusk are peak biting times for insects like mosquitoes, so avoid being outdoors during these times if possible. Also, avoid areas with standing water as they are common breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Treat Clothing and Gear

Permethrin (0.5%) is an insecticide that can be used to treat clothing and outdoor gear. This treatment can stay effective for several washes and offers additional protection. 

  • Pro tip: Focus on treating footwear (this study showed that people who wore permethrin-treated sneakers were nearly 74 times less likely to get a tick bite than those wearing untreated footwear).

 Use Insect Repellent

Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent containing 10-30% DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (ages 3+). These repellents effectively deter mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects.

  • Pro-tips:

    • Follow the application instructions on the label for safe and effective use.

    • Avoid hybrid sunscreen-insect repellent products (these are not recommended due to potential chemical reactions that could reduce the effectiveness of both).

      • Apply products separately, sunscreen first and then insect repellent.

      • Be sure to reapply both often.

    • Focus on application to exposed areas and avoid applying near the eyes or mouth.

By adopting these simple prevention strategies,  you can significantly reduce the likelihood of insect bites. So don’t bug out – stay protected and enjoy your summer!

Published by Jen Janocha, PA-C July 9, 2024
Jen Janocha, PA-C