The last few weeks of summer are a popular time for camping trips and outdoor activities! Many people are squeezing in the last family vacation before school starts for the year. Insect bites are a real nuisance and can put a damper on these summertime memories.
Here are a few tips to avoid the most common insect offenders:
1. Mosquitoes are found in most parts of the US. We have all experienced the annoying buzz of a mosquito in our ear at some point in our life.
They are common around bodies of water and are especially active at dusk. The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) recommends to use repellents containing ingredients such as diethyl phthalate, diethyl carbate; N, N-Diethyl-3-Methylbenzamide (DEET), metofluthrin, oil of lemon-eucalyptus, picaridin and ethyl hexanediol. For many years, DEET has been the gold standard in mosquito repellents and it still the standard today. People who prefer all natural repellents should try Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Repellents do not kill mosquitoes and other insects, but they will help deter them from biting people. Citronella candles can be effective if you are outside in an open area and of course long pants and long sleeve clothing will help protect your skin. The itch from the bite may be relieved with topical Benadryl or cortisone creams applied for a few days. Many people don’t realize that Mosquito bites can cause various infections; the West Nile Virus is the most common in the U.S. Around the world, mosquitoes can transmit some dangerous infectious diseases such as Malaria, Dengue fever, various forms of Encephalitis and Yellow fever. Mosquito bites can also cause Heartworm infections in dogs. An equestrian friend of mine who spends a lot of time in the stables around Southern California reminded me that a light spray of AVON Skin So Soft can help prevent flies and mosquitoes around horses and dogs. Check with your vet to see if this is an appropriate way to protect your four-legged friends. For more detailed information about Mosquitoes check out the The American Mosquito Control Association website.
2. Ticks and Spiders-These two notorious critters can cause some real harm. Infected ticks can potentially transmit Lyme Disease to humans.
There are various spiders that have poisonous bites and often times people mistake Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterial infection that can be life threatening, for a spider bite. Use DEET repellent when hiking and camping to prevent tick bites, but if you suspect you have a tick or spider bite, please get an evaluation from a qualified medical professional to be sure you do not need systemic treatment.
3. Mites-Everyone loves to watch birds in a feeder or baby birds hatching in the nest, but here in Southern California that could lead to hundreds of itchy bites. Mites typically live on small rodents and birds.
These mites are so small that they are difficult to see from the naked eye. If you have any exposure to rodents (rats, squirrels, mice, etc) or birds (bird’s nest close to the house or bird feeders), you could be the victim of mite bites. These are not the type of mites that live in your skin, they only use you as a source of food. The mites are so small that they can fit though holes in a screen door. Mite bites are very itchy and it is difficult to get rid of the mites on your own without a professional exterminator evaluating the situation and removing the source(i.e. rodent or bird or nest).
4. Bed Bugs-Those of us who are frequent travelers get itchy just thinking about these guys!
Bed Bugs have been making national news for a while now. They are becoming a huge problem with tourism as they are invading a wide range of lodging facilities from truck stop motels to fancy 5 star resorts. There are a few ways you can protect yourself when traveling. Bed Bugs like to live in cracks and dark spaces, so make sure to always look for evidence of the bugs or feces in between mattresses and box springs especially near the headboard of the bed. Never put your luggage on upholstered furniture or on the bed . Always use the luggage stand for your suitcase and keep it zipped. Carefully inspect inside dresser drawers and wipe with a damp tissue to make sure there are not bed bugs hiding in the corners. Bed bugs are the size of an apple seed and can have a sweet or musty odor in the room.
They do not fly, they get around by walking and they survive on blood. They can actually live for months without a food source. If you are feeling itchy and have new bites, along with small blood stains on your sheets, you should inspect the room for bed bugs. If you get bit by a bed bug, the bite will usually resolve within 2 weeks. The most important thing to be certain of is that you do not have a stowaway bed bug in your luggage that makes it into your house! They can be very difficult to eliminate from your home, even with professional assistance.
I like to use online travel resources such as Expedia, Travelocity, and Trip Advisor before traveling to a new hotel to make sure other people have not experienced problems with bed bugs during their stay. There is also a Bed Bug Registry where you can research a hotel before you go. WebMD has a nice summary of the headaches associated with beg bug exposure.
I sincerely hope that you had a fantastic summer and that you made it through the past few months without being a victim to any of the above offenders! Soon, we will be getting into fall with shorter, cooler days and the beginning of a new foliage season. I am looking forward to a long weekend in Maine with my family to close out this summer, and I am wishing everyone your own safe and happy Labor Day adventures along with wonderful back to school season!!