Mosquitoes, ticks, bees, wasps, spiders, flies – your backyard can feel like a battlefield when summer pests catch you in their crosshairs. While only a small percentage of people experience severe reactions to insect bites and bee stings, even mild reactions can be unpleasantly annoying. Common bite symptoms include brief pain, swelling at the bite site and itching that can be intense and last for several days. Even mild insect bites bear watching because some insects, notably mosquitoes and ticks, can transmit dangerous diseases such as West Nile Virus and Lyme disease.

Take these precautions to avoid being targeted by stinging insects:

  • When walking through wooded or grassy areas, wear long-sleeves and long pants, tucking your pants into your socks.
  • Avoid brightly-colored clothing which attracts bees and wasps. Light-colored clothing makes it easier to see ticks.
  • Spray your clothing with insect repellent and apply repellent to exposed skin. Use a repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil. Insect repellents containing 35% DEET are effective against nearly all common insects. If you have young children, ask your pediatrician for a recommendation.
  • Avoid wearing perfume, scented deodorant or hairspray and do not use scented soap, body wash, lotion, shampoo or conditioner which can attract bees.

The Mayo Clinic recommends the following first aid for insect bites and stings:

  • Remove stinger or tick from your skin to prevent the release of additional venom or bacteria.
  • Wash the area with soap and water to remove venom and prevent bacterial infection.
  • Apply a cold pack to the site to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Several times a day, apply 0.5% or 1% hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching. Calamine lotion or a baking soda paste (3 teaspoons backing soda to 1 teaspoon water) may be substituted.
  • To reduce itching, take an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl.
  • Contact your physician if a rash or infection develops.