There’s nothing that can cast a shadow over an exotic beach holiday or tranquil countryside picnic quite like bug bites. Whether it’s the hum of mosquitoes that fill you with dread or the ominous buzz of a wasp that sends you running for cover, not only can bug bites and stings cause discomfort and pain, in some countries they can even carry the risk of disease. Here’s how to avoid and treat bug bites abroad.
Prevention is the best cure
When it comes to bug bites and stings, you really want to avoid getting them in the first place. There are a few basic preventative steps you can take that might just help you out.
If you notice that you are in a situation where wasps, hornets or bees are nearby, try your best to remain calm. Easier said than done perhaps, but try to remember you have a much greater chance of escaping unscathed if you don’t rile them up. Avoid swatting at anything that might sting you and don’t wave your arms around which could be perceived as a threat. It is imperative that you always seek professional help should you suspect that you have a nest in your house, garden or accommodation – a swarm of stinging insects can be very dangerous indeed.
Avoid camping or lingering in high-risk areas such as near ponds, swamps, flowering plants and compost which can attract mosquitoes and horseflies. Keep food and drink covered if enjoying a picnic or barbecue outside as bugs are often drawn closer by the tempting smells. Indeed, it is advisable to avoid using soaps, deodorants and perfumes with strong scents as these products have been known to attract bugs, too.
Additionally, keep doors and windows closed, or invest in mosquito netting to keep the critters out. This can be especially beneficial at night when you’re asleep and can’t hear or see them coming. A mosquito net hung from the ceiling should tuck under your mattress – make sure you are not pressed against the sides of the netting or you could get bitten through the fabric.
Whilst many people are wary of using DEET (diethyltolamide) on their skin on a regular basis, it is a repellant that is proven to repel insects and if you will be spending time in an area with a high risk of mosquito borne illnesses, it is certainly a repellant to consider. Covering exposed skin as much as possible and always wearing shoes will also minimise your chances of getting bitten.
The most important thing to remember when travelling to a country that could carry a risk of illnesses spread by insects is to talk to your local travel clinic or GP. They will be able to provide the best and most up-to-date advice for your trip. You may be required to take medication such as antimalarial tablets which can help you fight off the disease should you come into contact with it. There are vaccinations available for some insect-borne illnesses such as Yellow Fever – always ensure you know all the facts and risks before you travel. Check the NHS website too for more information on which immunisations you should have for each country.
First aid for bug bites and stings
If you do get bitten or stung by an insect, it is likely the affected area may become swollen, red and feel itchy, hot or painful. If you have been stung and you can see the sting, remove it and clean the wound with soap and water. Apply an ice pack to the skin in order to reduce swelling and apply antiseptic to the source of the wound to minimise the chances of infection. Painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to relieve any pain whilst antihistamines, hydrocortisone and calamine can assist with the swelling and itchiness.
Whilst many stings and bites will clear up by themselves if you take these precautionary steps, it is important to see a medical professional if your symptoms haven’t cleared up after two to three days or any signs of infection such as pus or flu-like symptoms appear. It is crucial to get to a medical professional as a matter of urgency should you begin to exhibit any sign of an allergic reaction such as redness or swelling which appears to be spreading.
Whilst you can take preventative steps to prevent bug bites before and whilst travelling, sometimes unfortunate incidents do occur and you might require medical attention on your trip. Even minor treatment can come with a high price tag in some parts of the world, so it pays to be cautious and purchase the right travel insurance for your trip. Medical Travel Compared can help you find the right plan for your circumstances – use our online comparison tool and get your free travel insurance quote today.
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