The best way to deal with insect bites and stings is to prevent them in the first place. This can also help a person avoid an insect-related disease, said Dr. Strowd, an assistant professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“Although most bug bites are harmless, some can spread dangerous diseases like Zika virus, dengue, Lyme disease and malaria,” said Dr. Strowd, who was quoted in a press release. “Particularly [when] visiting areas with known insect-borne diseases, it’s important to take steps to reduce [the] risk.”
To help prevent bug bites, Dr. Strowd recommends the following to patients:
Use insect repellent. To protect against mosquitoes, ticks and other bugs, use insect repellent that contains 20 to 30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing. It is important for patients to be instructed to always follow the instructions on the repellent and reapply as directed.
Apply sunscreen prior to insect repellent. Apply your sunscreen first, let it dry, and then apply the insect repellent. Sunscreen that contains insect repellent is not recommended because sunscreen must be applied liberally and insect repellant should be applied sparingly.
Wear appropriate clothing. When out at night or hiking in a densely-wooded area, it is important for people to cover exposed skin as much as possible by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks and closed shoes instead of sandals.
For additional protection, it is recommended that socks be pulled up over pants and that shirts are tucked into pants. It may also be helpful for a person to pre-treat outer layers of clothing with insect repellent containing the active ingredient permethrin. If this is done, however, patients should be encouraged to follow the repellent’s directions carefully, and allow the clothes to dry for at least two hours before wearing them.
Use bed nets. When camping outdoors, bed nets can help protect against mosquitoes while people are sleeping. Bed nets that have been pre-treated with pyrethroid insecticide are recommended. If the net does not reach the floor then it can be tucked under the mattress for maximum protection.
Pay attention to outbreaks. People should be encouraged to check for appropriate travel health notices and heed travel warnings and recommendations.
“Sometimes, despite one’s greatest efforts, bug bites still happen,” said Dr. Strowd, who offered the following recommendations to treat bug bites and stings:
For painful bites, such as a bee sting, take an over-the-counter painkiller, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. A person should be encouraged to always follow the directions on the label and to use the correct dose.
For bites that itch, apply an ice pack or an over-the-counter anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone. Another option is to take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine.
To reduce swelling, apply an ice pack to the bite.