• Gemma Corby

How to avoid an allergic reaction to insect bites this summer

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

Do you puff up like a puffer fish when the bugs bite? Many people experience insect allergies, so summer can be a nerve-wracking time.

Discover how you can prevent being bitten by insects - and what you can do if you get nibbled.

I am more popular than an Ariana Grande Insta post, when it comes to biting-insects.

ariana grande insect allergies
Like Ariana, I am super popular (with insects, anyhow)

They. Love. Me.

Moreover, they love to bite me.

Nobody wants to spend their summer looking like they are auditioning for the remake of Buffy The Vampire Slayer [or should that be Puffy The Vampire Slayer?].

gemma corby insect bite face allergic reaction
Looking like an extra from Buffy, thanks to an insect bite to the face

At best it’s going to spoil the aesthetic of your Insta grid; at worst, it can be life threatening.

As we all know, prevention is better than cure, so…

Five ways to stop those biting bugs in their tracks

1. Put the perfume bottle away

If you smell sweet, you’re going to attract more admirers than you were bargaining for.

I love scent so this upsets me, but I put my perfume away from May until early November (or until the temperature outside drops below 10 degrees Celsius for at least a week).

Doing this has significantly reduced the amount I have been bitten.

mosquito bite insect allergies
These little blighters are attracted by sweet smells - so put the perfume away for the summer

2. Use insect-repellent

A bit of a no-brainer, but some people are hesitant to use repellents because of the chemicals - especially DEET.

I understand this completely. Therefore, I rarely use ones with DEET - only if I am travelling to a country where there are lots of mosquitos; or if I know I will be sitting outside in the evening (see point four). I make sure I do not spray it near to my face or directly onto bare skin.

I mostly use Repel by Boots or Incognito Insect Repellent.

In the past, I have made my own bug spray. You can find a good recipe on the Wellness Mama site.

The bug spray I made was effective at keeping me safe from the biters, but I wasn’t so keen on the smell. It could have been that I hadn’t quite mastered the measures required - I could detect a vinegary smell, which I didn’t think was the most alluring scent.

In addition to using repellent, I also mist my face and neck with Skin So Soft by Avon as this contains the power-ingredient, citronella (it’s like Kryptonite for bugs).

Be aware that you will need to reapply your repellent throughout the day - especially if you are swimming. I fill a small travel spray bottle (available from Boots or Superdrug) with some Skin So Soft. I then carry this with me everywhere.

3. Invest in an essential oils’ diffuser

To fill your room with a mist of bug Kryptonite (aka citronella), treat yourself to a diffuser.

I purchased a lovely one by Anjou - all you do is add water and a few drops of citronella essential oil and let it work its magic. There is even a setting where it will change colour, creating a wonderful ambience.

anjou diffuser insect repellent citronella lavender essential oils
Add citronella, lemon eucalyptus and lavender essential oils to a diffuser, to keep insects at bay

Other essential oils that stop biting insects in their tracks (or should that be flight paths?), include:

  • Lavender

  • Lemon eucalyptus

  • Rosemary

  • Tea tree

  • Lemongrass

You can also purchase candles to repel insects - I light one of these on my kitchen windowsill, when I am cooking.

Insect killing plug-ins are available too - ideal when travelling. Note: you are advised not to use these in an air conditioned room.

4. Check your clock, calendar and location

You are more likely to get bitten at sunrise or sunset, as insects are more active at this time. Bad news if you’re dining al fresco or enjoying some evening drinks in a beer garden. To combat this, try and cover up as much skin as possible.

You may feel reluctant to put your summer dresses away and pull out your tights come September, but the silver-lining is that biting insects cannot survive temperatures of less than 10 degrees Celsius (or 50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Take care when spending time by still or stagnant water (i.e., a pond or a lake), biting insects are more likely to hang out in these areas - so make sure you’re wearing insect repellent.

If I know that I will be spending time in a bug hot-spot, I will pull out the big guns and use a product containing DEET. However, I appreciate this is not for everyone; for example, pregnant women have been cautioned not to expose themselves to too much DEET in their first trimester.

5. Don’t let them in

If you have access to air conditioning, use it and keep windows and doors closed.

If, like me, you are not so fortunate, then follow these handy steps:

  • Keep blinds and curtains closed

  • Spray insect repellent on the back of the blinds/curtains where possible

  • Switch the lights off - or keep them very low

  • Use a diffuser/candle (see step three) - place it near the window.

I haven’t tried this yet, but you can also buy a mesh screen to cover your window, so you can let fresh air in, while keeping the bugs out.

And if you are unlucky, what should you do?

Three things you should do if you’re bitten

1. Reach for the antihistamines

If you are super-allergic, then your doctor will prescribe you a strong antihistamine. I have been prescribed fexofenadine hydrochloride which has a long shelf life (you must ensure it’s in date, for it to be effective) - I take this with me whenever I travel - even during the winter months. Your doctor may also prescribe you an EpiPen if necessary.

There are several over the counter antihistamines you can buy, such as loratadine; chlorphenamine maleate (note: this causes drowsiness) and cetirizine hydrochloride.

If you take an antihistamine that makes you drowsy, do not drive or use other machinery. They are best taken before bed.

insect allergies antihistamine citronella lavender essential oils
My summertime arsenal

2. Slap on the hydrocortisone

Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid, which will quickly reduce inflammation and redness. It will also lessen the itchiness of any bite, meaning you are less likely to scratch the area and increase inflammation. I always take a tube of Eurax with me, when I go away.

3. Put aloe vera gel in the fridge

Aloe vera gel will also reduce inflammation (without the use of a corticosteroid) - pop it in the fridge for an extra cool feel.

I hope this quick guide will help you to enjoy a summer free of insect bites and unsightly lumps and bumps!

gemma corby leaone goodtooth
What I look like when my face isn't puffed up (I'm the one on the left)

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