Bug Off: Your Comprehensive Guide to Preventing and Treating Insect Bites and Stings

Bug Off: Your Comprehensive Guide to Preventing and Treating Insect Bites and Stings

Summer is a time for outdoor adventures, but it also brings the risk of insect bites and stings. Understanding how to protect yourself and treat these encounters can make your time outside more enjoyable and safe. This guide, brought to you by the Canadian Pharmacists Association, provides everything you need to know about dealing with insect bites and stings, along with how Chappelle Pharmacy can help you stay bite-free and healthy.

Non-Chemical Protection Against Mosquitoes

To avoid mosquito bites without using chemicals, consider these practical tips:

  • Wear Protective Clothing: Long pants and long sleeves made of light-colored, tightly woven fabrics can reduce the risk of bites.
  • Use Netting: Protect beds and strollers with mosquito netting.

Insect Repellents

Insect repellents can provide additional protection against mosquitoes and ticks. Here are some key ingredients found in repellents in Canada:

  • DEET: Effective against mosquitoes and ticks. Not recommended for children under six months. Use up to 10% DEET once daily for children 6 months to 2 years, up to 10% DEET three times daily for children 3-12 years, and up to 30% DEET for those older than 12 years.
  • Icaridin (Picaridin): Also repels mosquitoes and ticks. Safe for use in children over six months and adults, up to 20%.
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (PMD): Effective against mosquitoes but not proven against ticks. Not recommended for children under three years.
  • Soybean Oil: Safe for all age groups and repels mosquitoes, but not ticks.
  • Citronella: Effective against mosquitoes but should not be used on children under two years.
  • Metofluthrin: A device that emits a chemical to repel mosquitoes. Safe for all ages but ensure the vapor does not contact the skin or be inhaled directly.

Chemical Protection for Special Populations

  • Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women: Non-chemical methods are preferred, but DEET, icaridin, and PMD have shown no harmful effects. Chemical protection is essential when traveling to areas with high risks of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, Lyme disease, or Zika virus. Soybean oil is safe, but avoid citronella until more safety data is available.

Safe Use of Insect Repellents

To use insect repellents effectively and safely:

  • Follow package instructions carefully.
  • Apply repellents to exposed skin or clothing, not under clothing.
  • Use sprays in well-ventilated areas.
  • Avoid applying to open wounds, irritated skin, or children’s hands and faces.
  • If traveling to high-risk areas, spray tents, clothing, and bed nets with permethrin (do not apply permethrin to skin).
  • Wash hands after application and remove repellent with soap and water when protection is no longer needed.
  • If using both sunscreen and repellent, apply sunscreen first, wait 20 minutes, then apply repellent. Avoid combination products as sunscreen needs more frequent reapplication.

Treating Insect Bites and Stings

If you are bitten or stung, follow these steps:

  • Wash the affected area with soap and warm water.
  • Remove bee stingers with a clean, hard object like a credit card.
  • Apply ice or a cool compress to reduce irritation (do not use ice for more than 10 minutes at a time).
  • For pain, use acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • For itching, use anti-itch lotions, creams, or sprays, and consider nonprescription corticosteroid cream (e.g., hydrocortisone 0.5% or 1%) or oral antihistamines. Avoid topical antihistamines.
  • Prevent scratching to avoid infections.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Contact a healthcare professional if:

  • A rash develops around the bite.
  • The reaction spreads to a large area.
  • There are unusual symptoms such as large, swollen skin or blisters.
  • Flu-like symptoms appear within 30 days after a bite.

Seek immediate medical attention if severe symptoms develop, such as:

  • Whole-body itching or hot flushes.
  • Chest or throat tightness.
  • Hives, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps.
  • Dizziness, fainting, hoarse voice, or throat swelling.
  • Changes in heart rate.

Special Precautions for Allergies

Individuals with severe allergic reactions should:

  • Wear a MedicAlert bracelet.
  • Carry an epinephrine injection (e.g., EpiPen).
  • Go to the emergency department immediately after a bite or sting.

How Chappelle Pharmacy Can Help

At Chappelle Pharmacy, we offer a range of services to help you manage and prevent insect bites and stings:

  • Personalized Advice: Our pharmacists can provide guidance on choosing the right insect repellent for your needs.
  • Medication Management: We can help you understand how your medications might interact with insect repellents and recommend suitable options.
  • Travel Health: If you’re planning to travel to high-risk areas, we can provide tailored advice on necessary precautions and vaccinations.
  • Allergy Management: We offer MedicAlert bracelets and can help you learn how to use emergency medications like epinephrine injectors.

Visit Chappelle Pharmacy today to learn more about staying protected from insect bites and stings and to ensure you have the right tools and knowledge to enjoy your summer safely.