Preventing Summer Stings, Bites, Burns and Itchiness

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors. Prevent stings, bites, burns and itchiness before they happen so that your time outside doesn’t get cut short.

Things That Bite

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are small flying insects that live just about everywhere in the world. Aside from being pesky and their bite causing an itchy bump, they can also carry diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States is West Nile virus (WNV). Symptoms of WNV may include fever, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, inflammation of the brain and meningitis. Thankfully, 80% of people infected with the virus do not develop any symptoms.

To prevent mosquito bites and the diseases that come with them, wear long sleeves, pants and closed-toe shoes and insect repellant containing 20% to 30% DEET. Try purchasing mosquito-repellent plants or lighting a citronella candle near where you spend most of your time outside in the summer.

Ticks

Ticks, tiny arachnids that relate more to spiders than to mosquitos, are known for spreading diseases, which is what makes them such a concern. Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme Disease are just two of the serious diseases these blood-sucking species carry. Although only a small percent of ticks carry disease, it is still wise to use caution when outside to keep you, your family and even your pets safe.

Ticks hang out with their first pair of legs outstretched, often on tall blades of grass. When a host brushes by them, the tick climbs aboard. Therefore, the best method of tick prevention is to stay on trails and away from areas with tall grass. Wearing a tick repellent lotion or bug spray may also deter them. You may not feel the tick bite you, so always check yourself for ticks after a day outside, especially if you spent time off-trail or in tall grass.

Things That Sting

Bees, Wasps and Hornets

Most bees, wasps and hornets are very beneficial to our environment. Whether they play the role of a pollinator, or they prey on “bad” insects that destroy crops, our earth wouldn’t be the same without them. However, that doesn’t make their stings hurt any less!

To lower your likelihood of getting stung, wear clean, light-colored clothing that covers as much of your body as possible, avoid perfumed toiletries and remain calm if a stinging inspect comes near you – swatting at it will only make it angry, and may cause it to sting. If you do get stung and experience more than redness and swelling at the sting site, such as difficulty breathing, seek emergency treatment immediately. You may be experiencing anaphylaxis (a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction).

Things That Itch and Burn

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac can cause itchy rashes because of an oil they contain called urushiol. Properly identifying these plants and avoidance is one of the best ways to avoid a potential reaction. Poison ivy or poison oak have red stems and leaves in groups of three arising from a single stem. Poison sumac may have five to seven or more leaves.  All species may have black dots on it from the urushiol oil that has been oxidized after exposure to oxygen.

If you come in contact with any of these plants, be sure to wash yourself and your clothes right away. Getting the urushiol off your skin is key to stopping the spread and calming the rash. You can also try applying an anti-itch or hydrocortisone cream, taking an oatmeal bath or using calamine lotion.

Wild Parsnip

If your skin comes in contact with Wild Parsnip, it may become more sensitive to the sun’s UV rays. This may result in severe burns and blisters on the affected area of the skin.

Learn to recognize Wild Parsnip and avoid it when in nature. The plant measures two to five feet tall, has yellow flowers when in bloom and its stem is hairless and grooved. Wear long sleeves and pants to decrease the surface area of skin that the oil comes in contact with. If you touch either plant, wash the affected area with soap and cold water as soon as possible and stay out of the sun.

Make the most of your summer by preventing bites, stings, burns and itchiness before they happen by staying on the trails, protecting your skin and seeking medical attention when it’s needed.