Bug Bites & Sunburns

Sunscreen & Bug Spray:

It’s that time of year again when we get out the sprays and creams that protect us from the sun and those pesky little blood suckers. It can be difficult to navigate the multitude of products available and make sure we are using the best ones.

As with most things, I recommend everything in moderation, this includes creams and sprays.   The first line of defense should always be to avoid or limit exposure. If exposure is unavoidable, then using oral or topical lines of defense can be helpful. When despite our best efforts we still get bitten or burned, there are some products that can help heal and minimize the discomfort associated with bites and burns. Here is a quick run down on prevention and treatment options:



  • Wear long sleeves and long pants when possible.
  • Tuck pants into socks when working outside or hiking.
  • Wear denim. Mosquitos can bite through tight fitted clothing and athletic gear containing materials such as cotton or spandex.

If it is too warm, or you are not able to cover up for whatever reason, my next line of defense includes oral and topical bug repellants.


  • Ramp up your B vitamin intake. I prefer to take a B-complex through bug season. It’s a good energy booster and keeps the bugs away.


  • The vitamin specifically associated with keeping the bugs away is thiamine (also known as vitamin B1). There are topical patches of thiamine available at hardware stores if you prefer not to take the complex.
  • I love to use combination products with citronella, lemon eucalyptus and camphor.  These can be found as sprays to put on your clothing, or as oil based sprays that can be applied directly to exposed skin.

Research has shown products containing the above ingredients to be equivalent to DEET, without the associated risk.

Bite treatment:

If the bite is really bothering you, then you can start by putting ice on it. I especially like to do this with kids as it gives them some immediate relief.  Next, I love to use combination products that have soothing botanicals such as calendula, chamomile and plantain to help heal, ease and reduce itching. They work best, in my opinion, when they also contain homeopathic remedies such as Apis and Ledum, which are used to reduce discomfort and swelling. These combinations can be found at your local health food store.



As with bug bites, the first line of defense against sunburn should focus on prevention and limiting exposure.

  • Avoid being out in the sun between the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. When outside, try to stay in shaded areas whenever possible.
  • If you are out working in the sun, wear clothes and wide brimmed hats to prevent direct exposure. There is clothing available that is light weight, breathable and even contains material that can protect you from UV exposure.
  • If you are going to be in the sun, apply a mineral sunscreen to protect yourself from getting burned.

Chemicals to avoid in your sunscreen

  • Benzophenones
  • Oxybenxones
  • Retnyl palmitate
  • PABA
  • Salicylates


Safer chemicals to consider:

  • Mexoryl SX
  • Avobezone

Minerals you want to see in your sunscreen

  • Zinc oxide
  • Titanium dioxide 


If you get sunburned, start by cooling the skin. You can take a quick dip in the lake, and then go to a shaded area.

  • Put a cool damp cloth over the affected area to cool skin.
  • Apply soothing lotions that contain aloe vera.
  • Avoid oil based products which can trap in heat!

Drink lots of water to help keep the body cool and hydrated. It is especially important to get drinks with electrolytes in them to prevent dehydration.


Wishing you a happy and healthy summer!

Dr. Nina



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