It's summertime and many of us have gotten slaphappy ... literally. Lovely July evenings are all too often interrupted by the ominous buzz of the mosquito, forcing us to spend the night swatting and scratching.
Mosquitoes don't actually bite; they draw out a small amount of blood. 'Bites' itch because our immune system releases histamine, which irritates our nerve endings, in order to combat the foreign substances that subsequently enter our body. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to prevent mosquito bites and even more remedies for soothing the resulting irritations.
Wouldn't it be great if we didn't get bug bites at all? Surprisingly, there are many quick and easy ways to prevent being bitten. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has an extensive list on how to best ward off pesky insects and on how to treat bites.
Follow the below guidelines and you'll be well on your way to enjoying a bug-free barbecue!
1. Apply insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin. DEET is very effective in repelling insects but does not kill them. Although there has been some speculation as to the potential health risks of DEET, the The Environmental Protection Agency (which regulates insect repellents) has determined that DEET does not present a health concern when used properly.
2. Limit your outdoor exposure dusk to dawn -- peak mosquito time. Also try to avoid heavily wooded areas. Be aware that mosquitoes breed in standing water, and this includes flower pots and outdoor pet dishes. For a more complete forecast on mosquito activity in your area, check out Weather.com's Mosquito Activity Forecast.
3. Cover yourself as much as possible but be aware that mosquitoes can still bite through flimsy clothing. Wearing light-colored clothing can also deter mosquitoes but bees are attracted to bright-colored clothing.
4. Avoid wearing perfumes or using scented bath products.
5. Light citronella candles to help de-bug outdoor parties.
If you're 'sweet-skinned' like me and inevitably get bitten, there are a number of ways soothe your skin. While most mosquito bites are merely an annoyance, be on the lookout for symptoms of a serious reaction including a rash, swelling, and wheezing or difficulty breathing. If you suspect a health problem, seek medical attention immediately.
Otherwise, the below tips should help to alleviate itching.
1. Put a cool compress or ice pack on the bitten area.
2. Take an oral antihistamine. Be advised, however, that oral antihistamines can have some, albeit minor, side-effects such as drowsiness.
3. Use an anti-itching cream like calamine lotion (the same lotion used to soothe the effects of poison ivy and chicken pox).
4. Try a home remedy (after all, we are a DIY site!). A number of home remedies for treating mosquito bites also exist. If you have a lot of sores, you can try bathing in colloidal oatmeal. You can also try making a paste out of baking soda and water or rubbing a slightly wet bar of ivory soap over the area. For more DIY remedies, check out TipNut's list of 40 mosquito bite itch relief ideas.
5. Most importantly, avoid scratching the area! We know this is so much easier said than done, but scratching only causes more histamine to be released and thus increases the itching. Scratching the area can also lead to an infection if you break the skin.
Enjoy your outdoor summer activities, but if you feel like you're being 'eaten alive,' there's no harm in heading indoors for the latter part of the evenings!