Treat Insect Bites

A Bite Out of Your Adventure – Prevent and Properly Treat Insect Bites for a Better Summer

One of the best parts about the summer season is the opportunity to enjoy more of the outdoors. This means the chance to go camping, hiking and more. However, being further away from urban settings also means that medical care and emergency services may not be readily available if an emergency occurs. We must keep in mind that first-aid out in the wilderness can often look widely different from the standard first-aid that we are typically used to. For one, unlike indoor environments, we are much more likely to encounter insects and experience insect bites when outdoors.

Hence, one of the first things we must learn is how we can prevent insect bites. These include some very simple steps such as wearing lighter colours, long sleeves and pants in wooded or grassy areas. Tucking our pant legs into our socks can also help ensure that the skin is covered and help to block any crawling ticks. If tucking the pant legs in isn’t an option, we can also opt for a rubber band to tie around the pant leg.

Out in the wilderness, it is also highly recommended that we avoid the use of scented products such as perfumes or colognes. We want to apply DEET-containing insect repellent and remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when doing so. Avoid applying insect repellent on the lips, eyes or any wounds or rashes. If possible, it is also a good idea to stay away from tall grass and underbrush.

Although insect bites might seem like a trivial event, some can actually cause severe allergic reactions, resulting in life-threatening situations. In that case, aside from contacting emergency services, we should administer epinephrine by using an Epi-pen.

As always, it is best to be prepared for emergencies, hoping that would have no use for the emergency materials that we bring along. An Epi-pen is a useful tool to assist life-threatening situations, and so are first aid kits. If you are looking to purchase a compact and convenient first aid kit for travel, First Aid Plus offers a variety of different sized kits which can be found here: https://store.firstaidplus.ca/collections/first-aid-kits.

Prevention Out in the Wild:
  • Be prepared! Buy a first aid kit at: https://store.firstaidplus.ca/collections/first-aid-kits
  • Carry an Epi-pen in case of an anaphylaxis reaction
  • Wear lighter colours
  • Wear long sleeves and pants in wooded or grassy areas
  • Tuck pant legs into socks to cover open skin
  • Avoid use of scented produces (e.g. perfumes or colognes)
  • Apply DEET-containing insect repellent, following manufacturer’s instructions
  • Stay away from tall grass and underbrush

Next, in the case that we do encounter an insect bite, it is also crucial that we are aware of how to treat it. Most frequently, we would encounter stinging insect bites such as mosquito or wasp bites. When this happens, the first thing we should do is check the ABCs of the person who was bitten. This means checking their airway, breathing, and their circulation. Emergency services should be called immediately if the individual experiences any difficulty breathing after being bitten.

Afterwards, remove the stinger from their skin by scraping the skin. This can be done with a credit card, driver’s license, or any other flat and hard material convenient for scraping. We want to try and avoid squeezing the stinger with tweezers. Once the stinger has been removed, we should wash the affected area with soap and water and continue to monitor the individual for any signs of an allergic reaction.

A cold compress can be used for 15 minute intervals every hour to help reduce any pain or swelling. It is highly recommended that a cloth is put in between the cold pack and the person’s skin to avoid freezing their skin.

Treat Insect Bites:
  • Check ABCs (Airway, Breathing, Circulation)
    • Call emergency services immediately if the individual experiences difficulty breathing
  • Remove the stinger from the skin by scraping the skin. Do not squeeze the stinger with tweezers.
  • Wash affected area with soap and water
  • Monitor the individual for any signs of an allergic reaction
  • Use a cold compress to reduce pain or swelling. Use for 15 minute intervals every hour. Place a cloth between the cold compress and the skin to help avoid freezing the skin.

Aside from protecting ourselves against insect bites out in the wild, there are many other considerations that we should take into account to ensure safety. For a more comprehensive understanding of how to handle first aid situations, a first aid course is a great step. First Aid Plus offers courses such as Standard First Aid and Remote First Aid, perfect for learning more about how we can strengthen our first aid skills in outdoor environments. For a full list of all courses offered, please visit: https://www.firstaidplus.ca/courses-all/.

If you would like to learn more about how to prevent and treat heat-related emergencies when out enjoying the summer sun, read our last blog here.

Written By: Elisa Do – https://ca.linkedin.com/in/elisa-do