10 Common Skin Irritants


Bugs and Bug Repellent

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Whether or not you're an outdoor enthusiast, you have likely encountered bugs, and perhaps attempted to repel those bugs to avoid bites, stings and general unpleasantness. Both the bugs and the repellents are potential skin irritants.

Most bugs are harmless to your skin unless they bite or sting you. Some bugs, such as mosquitoes, ticks and bedbugs, bite with the objective to feast on your blood. Others, such as bees, ants and spiders, attempt to defend or attack with a venom of amino acids, peptides and proteins. While only some of the world's bugs have potentially lethal venoms, all bug bites and stings can produce allergic reactions ranging from a mild swelling and itching to a violent rash with blisters or sores.

When you're trying to avoid the pesky critters, one of your options is to apply a repellant lotion or spray to your exposed skin. These products usually contain N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) and other chemicals known to be effective at preventing bites from several types of insects. The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded from toxicity testing that DEET does not present a health concern for most people. However, the EPA recommends sparing use, washing it off thoroughly when you return indoors, and discontinuing use if you have any adverse reactions.

Your skin's best protection against bugs is clothing. When exposed skin is vulnerable, and applying a repellent to the skin is risky, long sleeves and trousers may be your healthiest option. You can even apply the repellent to the clothing for an extra layer of defense. If you spend a significant amount of time outdoors, you might even consider special insect-repellent clothing.