Although we all love the warm weather of the summer months, they also bring out a whole host of creepy crawlies, who seem determined to bite us, sting us, and generally make a nuisance of themselves as we try to enjoy the sun. Rather than let these annoying critters ruin your summer, check out our quick guide to preventing and treating stings and bites.
Prevention – bites and stinging insects
Repellent – There are various repellents available that use different active ingredients. The NHS recommends picking up a repellent that contains DEET (diethyltoluamide) particularly in malarial areas or if you’re going somewhere with a high number of bugs. When applying repellent be sure to avoid any cuts or scrapes you might have on your skin, which will only give you a whole other kind of stinging to worry about. When applying repellent to your face, spray some on your hands and then apply to your face, so as to avoid your eyes, nostrils and mouth. If you’re concerned about using such a strong chemical, there are plenty of natural alternatives available, though few are as affective as the big D.
Keep calm – Nobody likes having insects crawl or fly around them, but the absolute worst thing you can do is try to swat them away whilst flapping your arms about. Insects can become angry and frightened at the sight of rapid or sudden movements, which will increase your chances of being stung or bitten. Instead, try to stay as calm as possible whilst slowly walking away from the area.
Don’t invite them in – It might sound obvious, but insects will find it a lot harder to get into your house if there is no way in. If you absolutely have to have the windows open on hot days, install woven mesh screens over them to keep the majority of critters outside.
Cover up food – Everyone enjoys a good summer picnic, and that includes insects. If you’re eating food outside then you should make sure that all of it is covered. This is especially important towards the end of summer when wasps are more of a nuisance. This is because they have generally finished their breeding cycle by the end of summer, so they’re free to fly around and make our lives a misery.
Citronella candles – Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario found that citronella oil works as a natural insect repellent, with a forty two per cent reduction of mosquito bites in the vicinity of citronella candles. You can even buy bracelets infused with citronella oil, which have a similar effect.
Clothing – One of the most common sting related myths is that bright clothing is a ‘welcome’ mat for all manner of insects. Research carried out at the Tulane University in New Orleans proved that this myth isn’t true, with the various insects in the study showing absolutely no reaction to brightly coloured clothing.
Treatment – bites and stings
Even with all of the counter-measures under the sun at your disposal, there’s still always a risk that one determined little pest will penetrate your defences. If this does happen, here’s how to treat some of the most common bites and stings.
Bees – Your first reaction when stung by a bee should be to remove the stinger immediately, which will minimise the strength of the sting. If you do have an allergic reaction such as swelling, see a doctor as soon as possible. Extreme cases can cause severe breathing difficulties, in which case an ambulance should be called.
Mosquitoes – Although extremely frustrating, mosquito bites in the UK are not likely to cause serious problems. Treat the bites with an over-the-counter ointment to reduce itching. You could even consider using a natural remedy such as vinegar, which a study in the Journal of Entomological Research found also acts as a repellent.
Wasps – Public enemy number one during summer months, wasp stings are extremely painful, and according to the NHS are the most common cause of allergic reactions in the UK. Regular stings should be treated with ice or antihistamines to reduce swelling and itching. If an allergic reaction results, then you’ll need to see a doctor, or even call an ambulance in serious cases.
Spiders – Despite striking fear into millions around the country, there are relatively few spiders in the UK who can even bite, and even fewer that are dangerous. If you are bitten by one of the rare harmful UK spiders, or a spider whilst abroad, you may react with swelling, dizziness, or even vomiting, which should all be signs to head to the hospital.
Ants – The majority of ants in the UK do not sting or bite, however those that do can be a serious annoyance. If this happens to you, you should thoroughly wash the bitten area. You can then make use of a handy home remedy, by combining baking soda with water to create an itch-relieving paste.
Snakes – The UK’s only wild poisonous snake is the adder. Although painful, adder bites are rarely lethal following the correct treatment, with the last fatality being over 30 years ago. If you think a snake bite in the UK or abroad is venomous because of swelling or nausea, you should visit a hospital immediately.
Jellyfish – Nothing spoils a day at the beach like a jellyfish sting, except perhaps weeding on it. Despite the popular myth fuelled by a certain Friends episode, urine has little to no effect on jellyfish bites, so unless you want to look daft it’s probably best avoided. Instead, the British Red Cross recommends treating a sting by slowly pouring seawater or vinegar over it.