The Essentials for Stings, Bites and Scratches

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Good summer fun means relishing the great outdoors. It also means itchy, scratchy season is here! We’re in sunny and buggy territory—whether it’s by the water, on the patio, or gardening in our backyards. These tips will help protect against bites, stings, burns, and rashes so you can stop scratching and fix the itch.

1. Most insect bites are harmless.
But they can cause irritation, pain, and itching. There are many biters and stingers on attack this time of year, like black flies, deer flies, horse flies, mosquitoes, wasps, bees, hornets, ticks, and fire ants. While flies are primarily daytime feeders, mosquitoes are more active at dawn and dusk, so avoid early morning and evening outdoor activities if possible.

2. Know your enemies.
Leaves of three? Let them be! You’ve heard the saying, but do you know what poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac look like? They don’t always have only three leaves and they can change with the season. To prevent itchy, uncomfortable rashes, learn to identify them and steer clear. Their leaves contain urushiol, an oil that’s released if they’re torn, bumped, or brushed up against. It can be transferred from person to person, from your dog to you, or even through the air by burning the leaves. If you find these plants on your property, dig out the roots and stems, wearing protective gloves. If you or Fido comes in contact with urushiol, wash with soap in the shower, not the bath.

3. Drain standing water.
Water shouldn’t stand outside for more than 4 days. Not only do mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, bees, wasps, and hornets are often attracted to it. Drain standing water outside your property—things like old tires, pots, wading pools, and watering cans. If you use a rainwater barrel, cover it with a fine screen, and keep your gutters clean.

4. Protect yourself from the sun.
Avoid red, itchy sunburns by applying sunscreen liberally 20 to 30 minutes before going out into the sun, especially between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. You need more than you might think for it to be effective—one palm-full of sunscreen per arm and one per leg. Reapply regularly, particularly after swimming or sweating heavily. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 to protect against both UVB rays (the ones that make you burn) and UVA rays (which lead to premature aging and contribute to the development of skin cancer). Don’t forget to protect your pout with a minimum SPF 30 lip balm too.

5. Dress for success.
Defend yourself from bugs and poison plants outdoors by covering up with light-coloured long-sleeved shirts and long pants. For extra protection, tuck your pants into your socks. Mesh clothing like hats and jackets are another bug-protecting alternative.

6. Repel them away.
To protect yourself from stinging insects, avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos, and deoderants. Insect repellent such as those containing DEET can help against mosquito, ticks, and black flies. Health Canada recommends the DEET concentration should be no greater than 30% for adults and 10% for kids over 6 months of age. Make sure to apply sunscreen first (if you’re in the sun) and then the repellent.

7. Defend your territory.
Your choice of outdoor lighting can help repel insects. Yellow bug lights and warm-coloured LEDs are a better choice than traditional incandescent lightbulbs. Use a large fan against skeeters (they’re fairly weak fliers). Plants like lemongrass, catnip, rosemary, pennyroyal, marigold, and lantana can also help to keep them at bay.

8. Stock your first aid kit.
Make sure your first aid kit is ready for stings, bites, and skin irritations. Gold Bond® Medicated Anti-Itch Cream is an essential part of every first aid kit. Known as the quick fix for almost every itch, it provides fast relief from pain and itching due to minor insect bites, sunburns, cuts, burns, and scrapes. It contains two medicinal ingredients, and moisturizing vitamin E and aloe vera to soothe dry and irritated skin.

Learn more about summer’s must-have skin therapy at