Bites, Stings & Nibbles
Unless you are traveling in the Arctic regions in wintertime, bug bites and stings are going to be part of just about any wilderness experience. Getting stung by a yellow jacket or bitten all over by noseums can make you incredibly uncomfortable and take away from the wonderful experience of spending time in the outdoors. Some insect bites are simply irritable, while others are in fact quite dangerous. Knowing how to prevent and treat different types of bites, stings, and nibbles is going to make you much more comfortable on your outdoor adventures.
Avoiding Insect Bites and Stings:
First, and foremost, bug spray is a great way to keep many types of bugs, especially mosquitos, away, however there are several other steps you can take to avoid getting bitten or stung.
Avoid smelling like a flower or a fruit. Bathe, but leave the perfume at home. Insects love sweet smelling things like fruit and flowers, so putting perfume, cologne, body spray, or strong smelling deodorant on your body makes it an instant target for them.
Avoid looking like a flower or a fruit. Dark and vibrant colors might make you more visible for your friends, and might look nice in photos, but vibrant reds, blues, and pinks have been proven to attract insects so stick to more neutral shades of whites, tans, and light yellows.
Avoid tasting like a flower or a fruit. This is much harder to do. Some people claim that eating garlic and taking Vitamin B will make your blood more bitter and mosquitos will avoid you. This probably doesn't hurt anything, but there's no scientific proof that it does in fact work. However, if you're someone who gets stung often it might be a last resort attempt to make yourself less attractive to insects!
Sweets are treats for insects too. Soda, juice, sticky candy, fruit, and sometimes even meat (in the case of yellow jackets), all attract bugs,especially bees. In the heat of the summer when their food sources are limited, insects will swarm to your lunch table if they sense something tasty to eat.
Treating Insect Bites and Stings:
Move immediately to an area away from where the victim was stung (especially in the case of bees and yellow jackets, since most likely their hive or nest is nearby). Get the stinger out by scraping it or suctioning it out with a Sawyer Extractor, then apply ice or a cold washcloth on the sting immediately. Once you get the stinger out and reduce some of the initial pain, most stings and bites will start to itch and turn red to varying degrees. Sting relief pads are a good, quick, solution to help ease the pain and itchiness of a bug bite. A topical antihistamine, a baking soda solution, or calamine lotion will also help reduce swelling and itching.
Most people are locally allergic to bee stings, ant bites, and mosquito bites, however some people are more allergic than others and will suffer nausea, joint pain, fever, and in the worst case, anaphylactic shock. Oral antihistamines can help reduce swelling. If a bite, or multiple bites, causes more than just minor redness and swelling, the victim must be transported to a doctor or medical facility as soon as possible.
If you are interested in learning more about treatments for systemic reactions to bites and stings in the outdoors, the topic is covered in depth in Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder courses.