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How to protect against spider and insect bites

Know how to keep spiders and insects away.

Woman in hat holding plants in garden

Spider and insect bites or stings can quickly suck the fun out of any outdoor adventure. Learn how to protect yourself, which dangerous bugs to keep an eye out for and what to do if they get you.

Help Prevent Bites and Stings

First things first, keep the bugs from getting to you:

  • Wear protective clothing — such as lightweight pants and long-sleeved shirts, a hat, gloves, high socks, and closed-toe shoes — when working or playing outside, camping, or cleaning out sheds, garages, attics, and crawl spaces.
  • Have a professional remove wasp nests close to your home or other living areas.
  • Install tight-fitting window and door screens to keep insects from getting inside your home.
  • Apply insect repellent to your clothing and skin before going outside.

Know the Dangerous Bugs

Avoid getting near these spiders and insects. Some of their bites are poisonous:

  • Brown recluse spiders can be ¼ to ¾ inch long and have violin-shape markings on their bodies.
  • Black widow spiders are about 1½ inches long and typically have red, hourglass-shape markings on the abdomen.
  • Wasps, which include yellow jackets and hornets, can be identified by a black and yellow or brown-red color pattern.
  • Africanized honeybees look like regular honeybees but tend to swarm their targets with hundreds of stings.
  • Red fire ants are less than ¼ inch long and red-brown in color. They will bite and sting repeatedly if their colony is threatened.

Treat Bites and Stings

If you've been injured:

  • Wash spider bites with soap and water, elevate the area and ice the bite to help reduce swelling, and seek immediate medical care.
  • If you aren't allergic to wasp venom, you can clean the affected area and apply antibiotic ointment. If you are allergic, seek medical treatment and take an antihistamine as soon as possible.
  • Remove honeybee stingers by scraping them from the skin with your fingernail.

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