Preventing Outdoor Bug Bites

Enjoying time outside is one of the best ways to pass the summer — but it can come with nuisances like mosquitos, ticks, and spiders leaving you with itchy or painful bites. For the most part, bug bites are more irritating than harmful, but some can carry infections or other illnesses, so it’s best to prevent them when you can.

Aside from the itchy welts they leave behind, insects can also cause more dangerous conditions like the West Nile virus, the Zika virus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Many can’t be prevented with vaccines, so stopping the bites from occurring at all is the best first step.

Wear protective clothing, especially for more intensive outdoor activities like trail running or hiking: long sleeve shirts, full-length pants, and socks that cover your ankles are important, especially for keeping ticks away. Mosquitos will find it more difficult to see, and bite, you if you’re wearing light colors or a tightly-woven fabric (for example, synthetic rather than cotton for exercise), and ticks are more easily spotted on light colors than dark.

It’s not always practical, especially in the heat, to be covered head-to-toe in tight or full-covered clothing; insect repellant applied to exposed skin can help make up for that. Those that contain the ingredient DEET are most effective; read the safety directions before applying, and remember to reapply.

When choosing a spot to set up outside — whether for an al fresco dinner in your own yard or for a camping trip — be strategic. Insects like mosquitos are drawn to water, so change birdbaths and other standing water sources once a week and don’t pitch your tent right next to a pond. Wind also makes it more difficult for insects to fly, so if you can choose a breezy spot, do so. Flowers make for a picturesque setting, but brightly-colored and highly-scented ones attract bees, mosquitos, and wasps, so sit at a distance from them if you intend to be outside long.

Insects are also attracted to the scent of food, especially sweet ones, so don’t serve it until just before you’re ready to eat, and pack it up once you’re finished; you can also use netted covers to protect the tables and dishes.

Regularly checking your pets for ticks and fleas not only helps keep them safe, it can also prevent them from being brought into your house.


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