Guarding Against Summer Bug Bites

Nothing says summer like bug bites.

Although it's a mystery why two people can be outside in the same area and only one will end up covered in bites, there are ways to protect yourself.

One way is to be as scent-free as possible. Flying pests are attracted to different body chemicals and smells, so don't wear perfume, lotion or hair spray (but do wear sunscreen).

Your choice of clothing also can make a difference, especially when hiking or camping in a wooded area. Experts advise wearing long sleeves and long pants, which you can tuck inside your socks to avoid ticks.

"Ticks are of special concern because they can transmit Lyme disease," says Dr. Ramsey Markus, assistant professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine.

A tick looks like a black dot, stuck in your skin. If you see this, tell your parents or camp counselor right away so they can remove the tick. Although Lyme disease is rare, it still is important to alert your doctor so he or she can tell you about possible symptoms.

Some doctors recommend having parents put insect repellent on kids; others say these products are not safe for children. Kids never should put repellents on by themselves.

Another summer concern is bee stings. If you are stung, tell an adult, and don't try to squeeze out the stinger.

"Squeezing the area around the stinger causes it to release more venom into the body," Markus says. Instead, the stinger should be gently scraped off the skin.

Kids who know they are allergic to bees should talk to their doctors about carrying an Epi-pen, which can help them in the event of a sting. Even if you are not allergic to bees, Markus says, take it easy after being stung to make sure you are feeling all right.

As for common summer bites, such as those from mosquitoes, you can get some relief with calamine lotion or a cold compress. Try to resist scratching, which will cause the bite to itch more.

Kids and other readers can e-mail Emily Dwass at emilydwass@yahoo.com. Kid Health runs the third Monday of the month.

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Do you like to draw? If so, we have an opportunity for you. Send us your artwork about summer safety (next month's topic), and we just may use it to illustrate the July column. If your art isn't selected, don't worry. We'll have a new topic every month, so you can try again.

* Send submissions to Kid Health, Health section, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Include age, grade and school. Sorry, but submissions cannot be returned.

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