Mosquito bites are annoying, and they can be painful. However, they can also be serious health threats if you develop a severe allergic reaction to their saliva.

There are many ways you can prevent mosquito bites, and these tips can help reduce your risk of becoming infected with mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus.

1. Wear light-colored clothing that covers most of your skin, and apply bug repellent to all exposed skin.

The most effective repellents include a chemical called DEET, or picaridin, PMD, or IR3535. These chemicals are generally safe for pregnant and nursing women, as well as babies over 2 months old when used as directed by the CDC.

2. Avoid mosquito habitats, including pools of standing water and areas that are too warm or moist.

The best way to keep mosquitoes away is by staying indoors from dusk until dawn – peak mosquito time – and by wearing protective clothing and using repellent whenever you’re outdoors.

3. Remove clogged rain gutters, birdbaths, tire covers, and other sources of water where mosquitoes breed.

Once a week, get rid of these sources of standing water and keep your yard free of clutter that gives mosquitoes places to hide.

4. Use a mosquito swatter to help you avoid being bitten by mosquitoes that land on your skin.

The swatter is usually mounted on the end of a springy wire, making it harder for the mosquito to reach the skin. It’s also easier to swat a mosquito when it is stationary, since you can use your hand in a similar motion to flip it back and forth.

5. Avoid itchiness, swollen bumps and other itching symptoms by applying cold compresses, lemon balm cream or anti-itch creams to the area.

6. If a mosquito bite causes hives, difficulty breathing or swelling of the lips, seek emergency medical care.

7. Rinse your mouth and nose with soap and water after being bitten by a mosquito, or use an over-the-counter decongestant.

8. Don’t scratch the bites.

If you scratch, your body’s natural inflammatory response can increase the chances that the bite will become infected with a virus or parasite. This can lead to a more severe allergy called Skeeter syndrome, which causes itching and other symptoms that are more severe than the typical bite itch.

9. Avoid contact with the bites, especially if you’re pregnant or nursing.

10. Wash the bites with soap and water and if you’re a child, use a mild ointment or lotion that’s non-toxic and won’t irritate your skin.

11. Don’t try to kill the mosquito by swatting or flexing your muscles.

A popular myth is that if you flex your muscle or stretch your skin tight when you’re being bitten, the mosquito’s proboscis will get stuck in your skin and drink all of your blood until it explodes.

But there’s no scientific evidence to support this. And in fact, it may be even worse than letting the mosquito bite you in the first place!