In some places, bug bites can be a source of more than just irritation. Mosquitoes, some kinds of flies, and ticks can carry a number of diseases that affect humans. Luckily, people have come up with a wide array of strategies to avoid bug bites. If you’re heading to an area where insects are prevalent, consider the following tips for avoiding bites.
– Use DEET-based products for tick and mosquito protection. An insect repellent containing 20 percent or more DEET will be effective at discouraging both kinds of insects from biting you. For protection against mosquitoes only, you can also use products containing the substances picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. When using insect repellents and sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first, and always follow directions for applying the repellent.
– Try clothing and gear treated with permethrin. Permethrin cannot be used on the skin, but when applied to cloth it makes an effective insect repellent. You can purchase several kinds of pretreated gear, or you can treat your clothing yourself.
– Cover your skin. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, hats, and pants goes a long way toward preventing insect bites. Sleeping in rooms with screens or air conditioning helps as well, as does employing a bed net when sleeping outdoors or in exposed areas.
– Avoid insect habitats. Stay in the center of hiking trails and don’t go through brushy and wooded areas. If you’re traveling in an area of Africa affected by the tsetse fly, stay away from bushes during the day.
– Check for ticks at the end of the day. If you’re in an area with lots of ticks, check your whole body, including under your arms and inside your belly button, for ticks when you get back from the outdoors. Remove ticks properly by grasping them behind the head with tweezers and pulling back steadily. In addition, take a bath or a shower as soon as you can.