All photos shown in this post were taken at the Hugh Ramsey Nature Park in Harlingen, Texas.
Camping & Hiking in Texas
We have some truly gorgeous state parks and campgrounds here in Texas. Many of our nature trails and wildlife parks are internationally renowned, including the World Birding Center, which has locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley. And we also have a number of organizations along the Gulf Coast that help preserve endangered species, like Sea Turtle, Inc.
There is so much to explore, especially here in South Texas where our many parks and refuges help to preserve the animals and plants that attract a global audience of travelers and wildlife researchers.
Preventing Mosquito Bites During Summer in Texas
Summer is the time to explore and lots of families will no doubt be traveling throughout South Texas to stay in our state parks or hike our local nature trails with the kiddos.
But now that Summer is on the way and our parks are hosting activities, like camp outs, wildlife tours, outdoor sports and more, it’s important to also remember outdoor safety. Here in Texas, we have to take a little extra care to prevent heat exhaustion, avoid toxic plants and prevent bites from bugs, like mosquitoes, which can carry diseases like Dengue, Zika Virus, West Nile Virus and Chikungunya Virus.
In the south and especially here in South Texas, which borders the Gulf Coast, our Summer storms can often create a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Visitors and vacationers especially need to be cautious, since they’re not familiar with the area and typically don’t realize how bad the mosquitoes can get during storm season.
But you don’t have to have your day ruined by mosquitoes or other annoying Texas bugs. There are several things you can do to prepare for your outings and keep kids safe from bug bites while traveling and enjoying our beautiful state parks.
Here are 8 things you can do to keep the bugs out of your hair, and your campsite, during your next visit to our South Texas state parks.
Ways to Avoid Mosquitoes & Stay Safe Outdoors in Texas
1. Get covered. You might not think that Texas is the place to wear long sleeved shirts and pants, but all the locals already know it’s the only way to get by. Covering your body in lightweight clothing helps to avoid getting overheated, while also protecting your skin from the sun’s glaring heat. It also helps prevent bites from insects, like toxic spiders, ticks and mosquitoes that can ruin your day. We also bring plenty of high SPF sunblock for the kiddos in the event that we go out in shorts and T-shirts or decide to go for a swim. And having a mosquito net on hand for infants and toddlers is a great idea for covering strollers and bassinets while hiking and camping.
2. Bring the spray. You might not think you’ll need bug it, but guaranteed, if you do, you’ll really regret not bringing it. Much of South Texas has a tropical climate that helps bugs to thrive and populate the area quickly. We use OFF! Family Care Smooth & Dry Spray and Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Oil. Both of which are great for kids’ sensitive skin. Our kids have eczema and neither of these sprays cause a reaction, so we highly recommend them. To keep your bug sprays working at their best, make sure you spray them on AFTER you apply sunblock, lotions or other skin creams. Allow the skin to dry fully and then apply your bug spray as the final step.
The CDC recommendss buying EPA-registered insect repellents, especially those that contain at least one of the following ingredients:
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
You can find all of these items and more in our Amazon shop.
3. Don’t forget about First Aid. It goes without saying, but a first aid kit is an important part of your outdoor travel gear. There are a variety of first aid kits available for purchase at stores and online, but you want to make sure that you pick one that includes more than just bandages and antibiotic ointment. A great first aid kit should also include an anti-itch cream and hydrocortisone cream to help calm and treat irritating bug bites. My son is especially sensitive to bites from mosquitoes and fire ants, so we always keep his steroid cream on hand to bring down swelling and cover with a bandaid and triple antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
First aid and travel essentials to consider packing:
- Sunscreen (with UVA and UVB protection, SPF 15 or higher)
- Sunglasses and hat
- Motion sickness medicine
- Pain and fever medicine (acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen)
- Hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) or antibacterial hand wipes
- Insect repellent (with an active ingredient like DEET or picaridin)
- 1% hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial or antifungal ointments
- Antiseptic wound cleaner
- Aloe gel for sunburns
- Insect bite anti-itch gel or cream
- Disposable gloves
- Plastic bag (to keep ticks or potentially poisonous insects that have bitten you or a family member)
- Cotton swabs (Q-Tips)
- Eye drops
4. Treat your campsite. Not only do I treat the kids during our trip, but I treat our campsite too. I usually bring a small spray bottle of water (mixed with either mint extract or orange oil) that I can use to spray our tent, chairs, backpacks and other gear. Spray them down and let them dry in the sun. You can also spray a perimeter around your campsite to keep bugs away. Mint and orange oil are natural bug deterrents and will help keep some creepy crawlers at bay. Just keeping mind, to prevent mosquito bites, your best bet is to stick with EPA-approved repellents.
5. Remove standing water. Standing water is one of the biggest ways to attract bugs, and especially mosquitoes. Don’t leave open drinks, buckets, coolers or other sources of water and moisture out for the bugs to find. Make sure everything is tightly sealed and make sure you toss out water at least 50 feet away from your camp to avoid attracting bugs. If your campsite is near a waterway or puddles of standing water, consider moving to another location. Trust me, nobody wants to be eaten alive by mosquitoes in the middle of the night…and you surely don’t want to spend the whole trip tending to a crying toddler’s bites. Not to mention, the risk of disease or infection. It’s best just to avoid any spots that have too much moisture or standing water. Mosquitoes often breed underneath the mud after all, and it’s not hard to stir them up by just walking through their breeding grounds (a.k.a. where there’s mud or standing water).
6. Be prepared. We bring a backpack filled with essentials every time we leave our campsite. Inside, we keep our bug sprays, water bottles to stay hydrated, first aid kit, diapers and wipes, some basic survival gear and a couple of our little guy’s favorite toys in case he has a meltdown. Being prepared allows you to really enjoy the trip, especially with little ones who don’t have the patience to deal with stressful situations. Keeping bug sprays, anti-itch creams, first aid and other essentials on hand means that you can take care of an irritating or potential emergency situation on the spot.
7. Pay attention to time. Mosquitoes are active from dusk to dawn and throughout the day. Take extra care to use bug repellent throughout the day and cover with protective clothing, especially if you plan to be out hiking or doing other activities. If the mosquitoes are especially bad or if your campsite is near a waterway, you may want to consider avoiding outdoor activities altogether during these times.
8. Watch out. Stay aware of your surroundings and close to the kiddos while hiking, swimming or taking part in other outdoor activities. Remind your kids to tell you if they do get bug bites. If they do get a bite, you’ll want to treat them before it starts to irritate their skin or seek help if bitten by a toxic insect. Teach your little ones to watch out too. Being in nature is a fun experience, but it’s also important to teach about safety and sticking to designated hiking trails and common areas.
Above all, have fun!
Texas is filled with so many gorgeous state parks, wildlife refuges and botanical gardens. There is so much to see and do! Follow the tips I shared to help prevent mosquito bites and keep your family safe at home and while exploring Texas this Summer.
We hope you and your family enjoy your time here in South Texas and get a chance to visit all of our local parks and wildlife. For families living in South Texas, I would love to hear your favorite spots to visit. Which local parks are your favorites? What are the best tips for avoiding the Texas heat and bugs while out and about with the family?
Join us below this post in the comments section share your thoughts! If you’ve traveled to local parks in Texas or tried any of our tips, share your photos on Instagram by tagging us at @biculturalfamilia!