ways to deal with bug bitesAh, summer. The time of year when adults and kids alike spend long hours outdoors enjoying picnics, parties and play. Unfortunately, summertime means that bugs are enjoying long hours outdoors, too. The good news is you can prevent mosquitoes, ticks and flies from interfering with your family’s enjoyment of the season. Here are four ways to deal with bug bites.

Strategy #1: Outsmart the bugs.

If you know when insects are likely to be out and about, looking to bite, you can evade them more easily. TodaysParent.com shares feeding times for common insects: Mosquitoes are likely looking to eat at dawn and dusk, with black flies most active during the late afternoon and early evening. If you can avoid those times outdoors, great. But, it’s likely that you can’t, not entirely, so dress your child in light-colored clothing, since dark and bright colors may attract insects. Don’t apply scented lotions, which can be a magnet to flies, as well as bees and wasps. Finally, protect your child by dressing him or her in long sleeves. Tuck pants into socks and choose closed-toed shoes. Top with a hat. This may not always be practical in hot weather, but follow these precautions for sure when going into wooded or swampy areas.

Parents.com offers more detailed information about specific insects’ habits and habitats.

Strategy #2: If you can’t avoid ’em, repel ’em.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to AkronsChildrens.org, recommend insect repellents with at least 20 percent DEET. These include Cutter Backwoods and Off! Deep Woods. Read the application instructions and follow them exactly, applying the repellent to your hands and then spreading it carefully on your child’s exposed skin. If you’re going to use sunscreen, too, apply that first. Once it’s dry, then you can apply the insect repellent. Don’t use products that are a repellent/sunscreen combination and don’t spray the insect repellent under your child’s clothes. Keep the products out of reach of any children.

Strategy #3: Devise a smart treatment plan.

If a bug bites your child, use cold compresses or a cool bath to reduce the itching or burning. You may need to apply an ice pack once an hour for six hours, keeping it on for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. When you’re not using the ice, keep a cool, wet washcloth over the affected skin. To reduce swelling, elevate the part of the body with the bite.

Try to distract your child if he or she is tempted to scratch the bite and, if the itchiness is just too much, use hydrocortisone cream, avoiding broken skin and areas by the mouth and eyes. Benadryl is a possibility if your child is 2 or older (although you’ll want to talk to your doctor first).

Strategy #4: Know when to seek medical attention.

If your child gets a fever, receives multiple bites or stings, or has bites near the eyes, call your doctor. This is also the best advice if the bites are painful or appear infected. In most cases, everything is fine, but better safe than sorry.

Head to the emergency room if your child has a history of severe reactions to bites or stings. Also seek emergency care if your child is short of breath, or starts to wheeze or complain of chest pain/tightness. If he or she struggles to speak or swallow, head to the emergency room. Other warning signs are weakness or fainting, abdominal pain, vomiting or severe swelling.