Spending time outdoors is good for your health, but whether you are heading out on the water, hiking a trail, or just hanging out in the backyard — be sure to know how to protect yourself and your family from bites and stings.
AdventHealth’s Network of Care provides tips on how to avoid the most common culprits. AdventHealth also provides guidance on what to do if you get bitten or stung this warm-weather season:
Mosquitoes: These insects are a nuisance and love warm, wet environments. Their bites can be itchy and can also carry some of the Zika virus.
Try to stay inside at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. If you go outdoors, wear long sleeves and pants to protect your skin. Adults can safely use insect repellent with DEET, but children younger than 2 months old should not be exposed to the chemical. Over-the-counter remedies can soothe the sensation and redness. Avoid scratching the bite so it does not become inflamed and trigger a skin infection.
Jellyfish stings — Jellyfish stings are painful but avoidable.
Check marine warnings ahead of going in the water (a purple lifeguard station flag means there is something dangerous in the water). Keep an eye out for jellyfish that wash up on shore, too. If you get stung, get to safety and wash the area well with seawater. Remove any tentacles that are left behind, using gloves if you can. Head to the lifeguard station for a vinegar solution to pour on your skin and leave it on for about 30 minutes before rinsing. Swelling and redness should go away, but if it increases, seek medical attention.
Stingrays: Check for marine warnings before entering the water.
Do the “stingray shuffle” by slowing down your walk and shuffling your feet through the top layer of sand as you wade into the water. This will alert stingrays that are buried under the sand in 10 inches or 12 inches of water. If you do get stung and a barb remains, head to the emergency room. Do not attempt to remove the barb by yourself. If there is no barb, soak the area in a bucket of hot water for about an hour, to soothe the pain. If you experience severe reactions like a rash, vomiting or trouble breathing, get medical help.
Snake Bites: If you see a snake, avoid it. Don’t try to catch, trap or kill it.
Avoid tall grasses and piles of leaves where snakes may be resting or hiding. Snakes are most active at night or early in the morning. If you are bitten by a snake, take a photo of the snake if you can. If not, pay attention to its coloring and patterns. Snake bites tend to swell, so remove jewelry around the area if you get a bite on your hand or arm. Call 911 immediately or go to the nearest emergency room. Do not suck venom from the bite wound, as it will not stop the venom from spreading.
Ticks: Though most tick bites are benign, some are associated with certain diseases, like Lyme disease.
Hiking trails are common places to pick up ticks. Wear protective clothing like long sleeves, pants, tall socks and boots when venturing into a heavily wooded area. Tuck your pants into your socks to close any gaps and use a lotion with DEET to repel ticks. Inspect your skin when you get home. If you find a tick, remove it with sanitized tweezers and clean and disinfect the area. If you develop a rash that spreads or experience a fever or joint pain, go to the doctor.
Bees: Bees can pack a painful sting, but usually do not need professional treatment unless you have an allergic reaction.
Bees do not respond to insect repellant. Give flowers a wide berth and keep an eye out for hives. If you are stung, bees will release a stinger into the skin, which can be removed by scraping or pulling it out. Apply ice to the area to help relieve the pain. Benadryl may reduce itching. A mixture of baking soda and water can help remove the stinger. Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you have a reaction such as trouble breathing, a rash over the entire body, swelling or vomiting. If you have had severe reactions in the past due to insect bites or stings, consider carrying an EpiPen, which can be prescribed by your doctor.
Published August 16, 2023