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How to Prevent and Treat Mosquito and Bug Bites

DrSugar Answers: Why Do Mosquitoes Love Me?

DrSugar is in the house! And she's answering your health-related questions.

Dear DrSugar,
Mosquitoes love me. Aside from using repellent featuring DEET (the natural sprays don’t work for me at all), is there anything else I can do to make myself less attractive to hungry pests? I heard drinking white vinegar helps. Also, once bitten, what is the best way to calm down the itchy factor of the bites? I end up bruising myself from scratching so hard!
— Covered With Bites

I must admit, mosquitoes and bugs love me too! In fact, my husband says I must be made of "sweet meat" because bugs love to sink their teeth into me! I think this is a great question to discuss while it's still Summer, so read more.

Whether or not my husband's "sweet meat" theory is correct, there does seem to be some truth to the fact that certain people are more prone to getting bug bites than others. There is no medical or scientific research that I could find that supports this, but I’m guessing it may have to do with certain people's body chemistry. Either way, there are things that can be done to prevent insect bites. To prevent mosquito bites, Dr. Greene recommends wearing light, neutral-colored clothing that covers most of the body, as bright, floral colors attract mosquitoes; avoiding fragrant soaps, shampoos, and lotions; avoiding "peak biting times," which are from dusk until dawn and worse in hot, humid weather; and staying away from still water (either indoors or outdoors).

WebMD also has good tips on preventing any type of insect bite or sting: apply insect repellent prior to entering woods or other areas where you may come into contact with insects, apply repellents safely, wear light-colored clothing that covers the body, avoid fragrant lotions and products, and avoid swatting at insects.

There are all types of insect repellent out there; some are natural and not made with chemicals and others have chemicals (the most common one out there is DEET). From what I read, drinking white vinegar was not mentioned as a way to repel insects, but there are tons of homemade spray-repellent recipes that use white vinegar. In terms of nonchemical, natural repellents, Dr. Greene recommends oil of lemon eucalyptus.

DEET is the active ingredient in many insect repellents. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a safety review on DEET in 1998 and, based on extensive toxicity testing, believes that the normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population. However, consumers can reduce their risks when using DEET by reading and following product label directions. To read the directions on all products containing DEET, refer to the EPA website!

Well, you've done all you can do and you still end up with a bug bite; what’s the best way to treat it? According to WebMD, most bites will heal on their own without a visit to the doctor. Emedicine health recommends cleaning the area with soap and water to remove any contaminated particles left behind by the insect. You should also refrain from scratching because this can cause the skin to break down and an infection to form. In the first six hours after the bite, a cool wet cloth or ice pack can help reduce symptoms as well. Itching can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamine (such as Benadryl) in pill or cream form. Hydrocortisone 1 percent cream or calamine lotion may help relieve itching as well, but Benadryl and hydrocortisone creams should not be given to children until speaking with the pediatrician!

Have a question for DrSugar? You can send it to me via private message here, and I will forward it to the good doctor.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

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