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The most dangerous animal in the world may be biting your ankle right now. Mosquitoes kill more than 600,000 people a year and sicken over 200 million. And they aren’t the only critters that may be gnawing on your family’s skin this summer.

Your best defense: Hibernate until winter comes (joke!) or wear a repellent. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that DEET is the most effective option. But what about vitamin B patches, dryer sheets, garlic, marigold plants, citronella oil, cedar oil, geranium oil, peppermint oil or VapoRub? Nope, says the CDC. The most promising alternative to DEET is BioUD, which contains a natural active ingredient isolated from a wild tomato plant which is proving to be a very effective natural alternative to DEET.

Got bit? Getting nipped by a mosquito mostly causes itching, swelling, and potentially an infection from scratching the itch. So don’t scratch it. If you live in an area where mosquito-borne illness is a significant threat, you might want to ask a healthcare professional about symptoms to watch for, as well as how to protect people with compromised immune systems, allergies or pregnant moms. And if you notice wheezing, having problems catching their breath or complains of swelling in the throat after a bug bite or sting, get immediate in-person medical help.

Get it off me!

Mosquitos aren’t the only little beastie to worry about. Ticks are more active in the warmer months, and they spread all sorts of nasty diseases.

Your best defense: Check carefully for ticks after any outdoor adventure, remembering they love to hide in hair and warm, moist areas of the body. Bathe or shower ASAP – and make sure to wash your hair – after a day outdoors. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair. If you find a tick, don’t panic but remove it quickly and calmly.

Got bit? Talk to a medical professional to discuss tick bite concerns, including removing the tick, aftercare, and symptoms to watch for over the next few weeks. The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society recommends that, if you live in or have travelled to an area where Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever is endemic, then you should consider seeing your doctor in person after a tick bite even if you don’t experience symptoms.

That Hurt!

Bees are lovely little animals, and they make our lives sweeter in so many wonderful ways. Sure, some bees sting but it’s usually not a big deal unless you happen to be allergic or they gang up on you.

Your Best Defense: Wear light-colored clothing rather than bright, flowery hues. Skip perfume and scented shampoos if you’ll be outside for a while. Cover sweet drinks and foods when picnicking outside and dispose of trash in a covered can or bin. And most of all: don’t wave your hands if a bee is buzzing around you. Sudden movements can scare and anger bees and increase your risk of getting stung.

Got stung? If you or a loved one are stung multiple times by a swarm, or if a sting is followed by difficulty breathing, a rash or hives, swelling of the throat and tongue, nausea/vomiting or diarrhea, dizziness, or similar symptoms – call 911 to get medical help immediately.

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