10 Effective Ways to Prevent Insect Bites and Infections
Getting insect bites often seems like an unavoidable part of life, but there are a number of ways to prevent these irritating bites, and the infections that they can sometimes cause. These effective solutions can keep you healthy and bite-free, no matter where you travel in the world.
It is a natural instinct of humans to go out into the natural world and explore. It is a beautiful place, but it is also home to other creatures – birds, beasts and insects. When you are in their world, it is important to protect yourself against their bites, as human beings are in high demand for some insects. Mosquitoes and similar blood-sucking insects enjoy having humans around because they provide a tasty meal, while other insects have nasty stings that they use as defensive mechanisms when you enter their territory or threaten them in some way. There are also midges, spiders, fleas, ticks, bedbugs and flies to worry about! Many insect bites are harmless, resulting in little more than an itchy, inflamed area of skin that goes away in a day or two. However, other insect bites are more serious, and can even cause serious infections.
Mosquitoes are the most deadly animals on the planet, based on how many humans they effectively kill. More than 1 million people around the world die each year due to mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria, Dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever and encephalitis. This means that in many parts of the world, protecting against insect bites is essential to remaining healthy – and alive! Preventing insect bites is important, but if you do happen to suffer from a bite, there are also a number of effective treatments that can prevent infections or minimize their symptoms.
10 Effective Ways to Prevent Insect Bites and Infections
- Stay Cool: Many insects are attracted to heat sources, since this is a functional way to hunt and a likely way to find food. Therefore, if you are sweating, your body is not only exuding a lot of heat, but also providing a wet, comfortable environment for a bug to latch on and possibly bite you. Avoid remaining outside after a healthy workout, and try to manage your body temperature in highly concentrated areas of insects.
- Dress Appropriately: That being said, it is important to always dress appropriately when going out into nature or working in a heavily wooded area. If possible, wear long pants and shirts, to reduce the amount of exposed skin where insects could potentially bite, sting, or latch on to you. This can be difficult to do while staying cool, but minimizing exposed skin is more important than reducing your body temperature.
- Avoid Heavily Wooded Areas: If you go into heavy brush, or try your hand at backcountry camping, you are putting yourself at a far greater risk of picking up ticks, disturbing spiders and generally giving bugs an excellent reason to bite you. Unless it is absolutely necessary, try to stay on set paths and avoid dry, leafy and brush-heavy areas, unless you are wearing appropriate clothing or have taken other precautions.
- Cinnamon Leaf Oil: There is a great deal of controversy about the types of insect repellent that you should use to protect yourself from insect bites. Many people going into “deep woods” often choose products that contain DEET, which is very harmful for the environment, and can negatively affect human health. A natural option for an effective insect repellent is cinnamon leaf oil. The scent alone is unpleasant to most bugs, and if they do land on your skin and become exposed to the oil, it can actually kill certain species of insects. Use a small amount mixed with water and apply sparingly to exposed areas of skin.
- Repellent: If you do choose to use a more formal insect repellent, be sure that you apply it to all areas of exposed skin, and avoid any products that do contain DEET. Re-application of insect repellent is very important, particularly if you are sweating, as this can quickly eliminate the repellent, leaving you vulnerable once again to bites and potential infection.
- Bed Check: If you are camping, living in a heavily wooded area, or are housed somewhere that isn’t “bug proof”, then you should always check your bed before going to sleep. An insect will love nothing more than to have a warm, blood-filled body for 6-8 hours beside them, which will make for a nice meal. Don’t give them the opportunity to do that! Check your bed thoroughly before going to sleep at night, and do your best to close up any access points that bugs might have under the cover of darkness!
- Avoid Strong Perfumes: Many insects are attracted by scent, which is why flowers often smell so sweet, to draw insects in to feed and carry their pollen. If you wear a lot of heavy perfumes or use strongly scented soaps and shampoos, there is a much better chance that bugs will naturally seek you out. Although you may not be a flower, they may still bite you anyway!
- Be Prepared: Before you spend a significant amount of time in the wild, or travel to a new country, you should understand the risks in that region. Knowing what types of bugs are present, and what infections they commonly possess, can keep you focused on prevention. Also, you should find out if you are allergic to various insect bites, such as wasps, bees or mosquitoes, before you expose yourself to them in the wild. Also, be prepared for anaphylactic shock and allergic reactions whenever you go out into nature.
- Avoid Violence: Taking a healthy swing at a bug may seem like a natural solution when an insect is flying near your face, but that might not be a great idea. Particularly for bees and wasps, this sort of aggressive behavior can often anger them, or make them feel threatened, and more likely to sting you. Swatting away mosquitoes is usually harmless, and irresistible, but for other insects, simply taking precautions should be enough to prevent a bite. Let the bug buzz around your face, but don’t swat at it, or else you might be on the receiving end of a sting!
- Basic First Aid: Everyone should have some basic knowledge of first aid, which is necessary depending on the bite. From spider bites to scorpion stings, some insect bites do require quick medical attention to prevent infection or serious side effects. If you are going out into nature for an extended period of time, or know that you work in a high-risk area for bug bites, educate yourself on first aid techniques and ensure that you have the proper supplies on hand, should you need to use them.