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How to Prevent Bug Bites (And Stop the Itch!)
They’re an unfortunate part of life around here. We wait all winter for warm weather, then immediately get attacked by mosquitos, gnats, no-see-ums, and other nasty insects. You then spend the next few days itching like crazy and then trying to patch up the bleeding sores you’re left with.
Whether you’re out gardening, grilling, exercising, or just trying to relax on your porch, these bad bugs always come in for the kill. Technically, you don’t even have to be outside to get bit! I’ve woken up on multiple mornings in my well-screened house only to find 5-10 bug bites all over my arms, legs, and neck.
Luckily, there are a few ways to prevent these itchy, scratchy, nasty bug bites. Here’s how, along with a few ways to stop the bug bites from itching.
How to Prevent Bug Bites
#1: Use Insect Repellent
I know; it’s sticky and gross, and you always wonder if it’ll give you some new form of cancer in 30 years. But insect repellent is one of the best ways to avoid bug bites, especially if you’re trying to do anything outside.
DEET sprays are considered one of the best options for bug defense. While at a high enough concentration the liquid can eat through plastic, the EPA considers it safe and effective when used as directed.
If that sounds a little too scary, Picaridin sprays are another possibility.
There are also many bug bite prevention options made from essential oils if you’d (understandably) like to go the all-natural route.
#2: Dress for… Success?
From my understanding (and personal experience), there’s really no perfect clothing solution when it comes to bugs. No-see-ums will find a way in no matter what. That said, the more coverage you can give yourself, the better. Wearing thick clothing that covers your arms, legs, and neck is ideal. It also helps to tuck in your shirt and pants whenever possible to keep the bugs from finding a sneak-in space.
Another excellent defense, clothing-wise, is to treat clothes with permethrin when you go outside.
For your face, it can help to wear netting. We use this fly netting, which works fairly well and can be cinched around the neck to prevent the bugs’ entry. And if you need a more extreme version of that, you can always try bug body netting.
#3: Encourage a Mighty Wind
Ever notice how breezes seem to make the little buggers disappear for a few blissful seconds? They don’t do well with wind, so going out when the air’s moving is your best bet.
If there isn’t any wind, you can use downturned fans around the area you’re hanging out in to blow them on their way. Of course, this only works if you’re relaxing on your porch, deck, or anywhere else with electricity.
#4: Remove Sources of Standing Water
This is common knowledge, but may be harder to carry out than you think. Remember that anything can become a source of stagnant water – upturned buckets, old tires, low spots in the grass or driveway, even seemingly innocuous decorations like bird baths. While it’s not fun to go around your lawn identifying hot spots, removing these can do a lot to keep bugs down. Of course, there’s not much you can do if there’s a pond or slow brook running through your backyard…
#5: Keep Doors and Windows Shut
Not what you wanted to hear, I know. But no-see-ums can get through even well-knit screens and cracks. And of course, open doors will let everything in. Keeping your windows and doors shut as much as possible, and using the air conditioner instead, is the best way to keep the pests from bothering you indoors. It’s also how you can most effectively prevent bug bites when sleeping.
Sometimes you just have to keep the windows open, so try to keep lights off to avoid attracting the bugs more than necessary.
#5½: Avoid Peak Bug Times and Exerting Yourself
I can’t call this more than half a tip, because in my experience all day long is a bad time for bugs, and on most occasions the only reason you’re outside is to accomplish something. But supposedly biting bugs are most active in the morning and evening, and if you’re sweating or breathing heavily, they’re more likely to find and attack you.
How to Stop Bug Bites from Itching
So you’ve been bit, possibly multiple times. I feel your pain. Here’s what you can do:
Apply an anti-itch gel. We have used this Benadryl one for years, and I’ve tried others, but they never seem to work as well. This is the magic stuff for treating all those awful gnat bites that plague us through the summer.
If you don’t have any anti-itch medication, an ice pack may also help with swelling and discomfort.
Take an antihistamine to help with your body’s immune reaction to the bite. For painful bites, a pain reliever like ibuprofen can help.
Another good natural fix is to put pressure on the bite for several seconds. You can use a finger, pen cap, the tip of a spoon (even better if it’s cold), or any other small object. Just don’t break the skin or use the item to itch it.
Which leads to the final point… which is that when it’s itchy, don’t scratch it! Itching really will only make things worse in the long run, and then you have awful sores, scabs, and eventually scars to deal with. Do whatever you have to do to distract yourself or put on gloves to keep from digging in when you try to scratch.
Keep Your Defenses Up!
By following these prevention tips for bug bites, you should notice a decrease in those itchy welts you get all summer. Now go enjoy these lovely summer days!