Easy tips you can use to avoid insect bites and stings

For infections spread by insect bites and stings, avoiding exposure is the best way to prevent disease.

a mosquito on a leaf

We have an influenza vaccine and scientists are hard at work developing one for coronavirus. For infections spread by insect bites and stings, avoiding exposure is the best way to prevent disease.



Insect bites and stings cause 3 types of problems-

local skin reaction

A local reaction at the site of the bite. This can range from mild redness, swelling and itching to a deep wound that may get infected.

The young girl depicted here, sustained a number of insect bites about her upper back. Note how these vesicular lesions resembled what was initially thought to be a case of chickenpox, caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV). credit CDC/ K.L. Herrmann,public domain

systemic reaction

A systemic reaction means symptoms in multiple organs of the body. This could include nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, dizziness, muscle aches , headache and anaphylaxis (life-threatening  allergic reaction). Bee and wasp stings can cause both local and systemic reactions.

An insect transmitted infection

We worry most about this one  (other than an anaphylaxis.) World wide, this is the most serious result of insect bites, leading to millions of illnesses and deaths. Malaria alone infects 200 million people, causing almost 500,000 deaths yearly.

Mosquitoes– bites can transmit malaria; Zika , chikungunya, dengue, West Nile,and yellow fever viruses

Ticks-bites transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia.


This photograph depicted two, Haemaphysalis longicornis  ticks, commonly known as the longhorned tick. The smaller of the two ticks on the left, was a nymph. The larger tick was an adult female. Males are rare. This tick can reproduce asexually. Note that the ticks had been placed atop a United States dime, in order to provide you with some sense of scale, as to the size of these small creatures. credit James Gathany/CDC
This image is in the public domain and thus free of any copyright restrictions


Preventing insect bites

  • wear long sleeve shirts and jackets
  • sleep under nets
  • be cautious when eating out of doors
  • remove sources of standing water
  • keep doors and windows closed, or install screens
  • apply insect repellents to skin or clothing




Insect repellents shown effective in  scientific studies.

(This section contains several affiliate links. They are here for your convenience and to support this blog. However, they do not indicate endorsement or advice to use.)

DEET- N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide

  • best documented effectiveness against mosquitoes and also repels ticks, chiggers, fleas, gnats ,and flies.
  • Safe for children over 2 months old
  • Considered safe in pregnancy
  • Apply sunscreen first, then apply DEET

Ultrathon Insect Repellent 2 oz (Pack of 2)


  • Protects against mosquitoes, ticks, flies, fleas, and chiggers
  • Safe for children
  • Safe in pregnancy
  • Better tolerated than DEET

Avon SSS Bug Guard Plus Picaridin Aerosol Spray 4 Oz.


  • Works against mosquitoes, deer ticks, flies
  • Safe in pregnancy

Avon SKIN-SO-SOFT Bug Guard PLUS IR3535® Insect Repellent Moisturizing Lotion – SPF 30 Gentle Breeze, 4 oz


 Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus – p-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD)

  • Repels mosquitoes, flies, gnats
  • Less effective than DEET for ticks
  • Not for children less than 3 years old
  • Safe in pregnancy

Coleman Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, Deet Free Insect Repellent Spray Pump, 4 fl oz


  • Repels and kills mosquitoes and ticks
  • Is applied to clothing, nets, tents and sleeping bags
  • No evidence of harm to children or in pregnancy

Coleman Gear and Clothing Permethrin Insect Repellent Aerosol, 6 Ounce


  • Only effective against mosquitoes, not against ticks
  • Less effective than DEET



Essential oils

  • Obtained from clove, geraniol, patchouli
  • Limited and variable protection against mosquitoes



How we’re fighting malaria around the world

You can help the victims of malaria by donating to the Malaria Medicine Fund. Blessings International gives malaria medicine to medical teams free of charge to use while treating malaria patients all over the world. 100% of donations go to this cause.

Read more and donate at this link

Blessings is working to fight malaria, and you can help!

(Watercress Words endorses Blessings International but has no direct financial interest or connection. This is not a sponsored or affiliate link.)


Listen to an Apple Podcast where 2 Docs Talk about

Emerging Vector Borne Disease

A vector is an organism that carries and transmits disease. The term usually refers to insects, but humans and other animals can also be vectors.

exploring the HEART of disease prevention

"faith, hope, love" each word written on a card, strung on a line with clothes pins
Lightstock.com graphic; find it at this link

Megan Briggs from Blessings International shares

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

5 thoughts on “Easy tips you can use to avoid insect bites and stings”

  1. Wow! Thanks Aletha…this is so helpful. California has received so much needed rain this spring. But along with it came ferocious mosquitos. We normally don’t have many and are totally unprepared. I love the eucalyptus oil idea. I am forwarding this to our neighbors.


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