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Bugs: Tips to help you avoid bites this summer

MAYWOOD, Ill.  (June 27, 2014) –  Summer means more bugs, including pesky mosquitoes and ticks. Our specialists have tips about which insects are harmful, what diseases they carry and how to safely avoid them.

“Mosquitoes and ticks are the two pests you primarily want to avoid because they can carry infectious diseases,” said Jennifer Layden, MD, infectious disease specialist at Loyola University Health System. “Ticks can carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and mosquitoes can spread West Nile virus."

To avoid these pests, you may buy insect repellent. But what levels of protection do they offer?

DEET is the most effective ingredient to protect against biting insects.  “Common insect repellent products contain up to 30 percent DEET for maximum protection,” said Christina Hantsch, MD, a toxicologist at Loyola. “Products with DEET provide longer duration protection as the concentration of DEET increases."

The longest duration is up to five hours for 30 percent DEET concentration. “Use a product appropriate for the duration of the outdoor activity,” Hantsch said. “I recommend avoiding extended chemical product exposure by changing clothes and washing off insect repellent with soap and water when you come inside."

DEET and other insect repellents such as citronella are generally safe for individuals over 2 months of age. To use a specific product correctly, follow the directions on the package. “Check labels to use a product that is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as an added measure of safety,”  Layden said. “I usually recommend that the product be reapplied every few hours to maintain effectiveness."

Layden recommended that adults administer insect repellent to children. “Kids can have a difficult time manipulating cans and bottles. You want to avoid inhaling repellent or getting it in the mouth or eyes,” she said.

Clothing that is pre-treated with repellent is available and remains effective through many washings. “Permethrin-treated fabric is a great option for those who are very active outdoors in the warm months,” Layden said.  “Treated clothing is safe and approved."

Tips from Dr. Layden on how to avoid bugs this summer:

  • Dusk and dawn are the prime hours for insects; stay inside
  • Wear long sleeves and  long pants to cover skin
  • Wear light colors, which don’t attract bugs as much as darker colors
  • Wear loose clothing to avoid skin irritation

“Calamine lotion is effective to take away the annoying itch of a mosquito bite,” Hantsch said. For tick removal, use tweezers as close to the entry of the skin as possible to remove the whole tick. “Clean the bite area with an antiseptic and cover with a loose bandage."

Signs that you need medical attention include fever, vomiting, excessive sleepiness, swelling, redness and  infection.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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