Prevent insect and spider bites
• Use a bug spray that contains DEET, the most effective insect repellent for use on the skin. Adults can safely use any DEET product (following directions on the label). Children should not be exposed to a cream that exceeds 6% DEET.
• Before heading into the deep woods, treat your clothing with one of the many insect repellents that contain permethrin. Permethrin is a synthetic version of a bug-repelling compound found in chrysanthemum plants. Apply it liberally to outdoor-wear clothing, and it should remain effective even after a washing. Permethrin only goes on clothing, but not for safety reasons: The compound loses its effectiveness when it’s applied to skin.
• You can also use products made with p-Menthane 3, 8-diol, a chemical derived from the eucalyptus plant.
• Citronella, an oil that comes from a type of grass, is found in bug-repelling candles, as well as bug sprays. Follow label directions.
• Several days before you take a camping or hiking trip into bug-filled territory, start eating garlic. Have a clove or two every day. As you sweat out the garlic odor, it repels many insects.
• To keep bees away, avoid wearing perfumes or scented products, keep food and soda covered, and don’t wear bright clothing, especially floral patterns.
Identify the spider
If you know you’ve been bitten by a spider, try to memorize its appearance. Some spiders can cause serious symptoms affecting your whole body, while others just create a localized reaction. Whether or not you have a severe reaction, get medical attention right away.
When to call the doctor
If you’ve been bitten by a spider, call the doctor immediately. If you’ve been stung by a bee or wasp and then have trouble breathing, feel faint, or have swelling in your mouth or throat, a rapid pulse, or hives, get to an emergency room. You could be having a potentially fatal allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. And see a doctor if you develop a bull’s-eye rash, muscle aches, fever, and headache within three weeks after getting a tick bite; these could be signs of Lyme disease, which can lead to mental confusion and arthritis if not treated.