Ouch! Helpful hints to manage summer’s insect bites

As the days grow long and warm, our families begin enjoying all the beauty of nature.

Summer is a time full of outdoor activities such as picnics, ball games, play dates at the park, and long walks. Yet, as with all good things, bug bites and allergies may interrupt the fun. Some useful information can help parents keep their families safe and avoid the dangers of bug bites.

Some tips to prevent insect bites this summer

The most common insect stings come from yellow jackets, bumble bees, honeybees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants. There are also types of biting flies, such as horse flies, sand flies, and black flies.

So to keep your family safe and healthy while enjoying the glories of summer, keep these helpful hints handy.

Insect sting prevention:

  • Stay away from insect nests. Insects are most likely to sting if their home is disturbed
    • If you find nests next to your home, destroy them safely.
    • If you find nests at the park or ball fields, contact local city officials so the nests can be removed
  • If insects are encountered, move slowly away. Avoid quick movements or swatting motions
  • Try to avoid wearing brightly colored clothing or perfume when outdoors – bugs may mistake you for a flower!
  • The smell of food attracts insects so be careful when cooking, eating, or drinking outdoors
    • Insects can enter straws or canned drinks so it is best to keep all beverages covered until consumed
  • To protect feet, it is best to wear closed-toe shoes when outdoors, and avoid going barefoot
  • Try to avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing that can trap insects between the material and the skin

If I suffer the sting of an insect … what remedies can I use?

Using these prevention tips can reduce the number of bites, but some may still occur. If you or a family member experiences an insect bite or sting, follow these treatment tips:

  • If the stinger is left in the skin, try to remove it within 30 seconds to limit the amount of venom absorbed. Usually the quick scrape of a clean fingernail will remove the stinger from the skin
  • Avoid squeezing the site if the stinger is still in the skin. This can cause the stinger to release more venom into the skin
  • After the stinger is removed,
    • Gently clean sting area with soap and water
    • Raise the affected limb
    • Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain
    • Do not break blisters to prevent a secondary infection

How can you tell if you are allergic to an insect bite? Here are the symptoms.

For family members with server allergies to insect bites, anaphylaxis can occur after a sting. Anaphylaxis is a serious, life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical help. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Itching and hives
  • Swelling in the throat or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • In severe cases, blood pressure can fall quickly and cause unconsciousness

Anyone experiencing 2 or more of these symptoms after a sting should seek emergency medical treatment.

If family members have a known allergy to insect stings, it may be wise to speak with their primary care provider to discuss the need to carry an auto-injectable epinephrine pen in the event of an anaphylaxis reaction. Be sure to ask for teaching about when and how to use the epinephrine pen so it can be used effectively in the event of an emergency. Additionally, family members with severe allergies may choose to wear a special bracelet that alert others to their allergy.

Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors. Keeping these helpful hints in mind can make outdoor activities safe and enjoyable for the whole family. If you know of any other remedy or need more information, do not hesitate to share it with us!


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (2018). Stinging insect allergy. Accessed March 16, 2018 from https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/stinging-insect-allergy

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