Buzz Off – Summer Health Advice

Mosquitos are not just pests. Their bites sometimes transmit serious diseases, such as West Nile virus. dengue fever, or even malaria. Ticks can spread Lyme disease. While your risk of getting diseases from bugs is probably low, your risk of being annoyed is quite high.

Short of traveling with a flock of bug-eating bats to chomp mosquitoes, there are a few simple precautions that can help minimize your risk of getting bitten this summer. With these basic steps, you may spend less time scratching itchy bites and more time at ball games or backyard barbecues.

1. Try to stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

2. If you are outdoors, you can deter mosquitoes with the right clothing. Clothing tips to keep in mind, particularly in areas that are heavily infested with mosquitoes, include:

    Wear long-sleeved shirts
    Wear socks
    Wear long pants and consider tucking your pants into your socks
    Wear boots (or at the least closed toe shoes), not sandals.
    Wear light-colored clothing, since mosquitoes are more attracted to darker colors
    Wear a full-brimmed hat to protect your head and neck or a baseball cap with a fold-out flap to protect the back of your neck
    Consider wearing a mosquito net to cover your head and face or torso

3. Insect Repellents
When used properly, repellents are safe for kids and adults alike. Keep in mind that even though some of them are classified as pesticides by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), repellents don’t kill mosquitoes. Repellents simply make you more difficult to find.

If you do opt for repellent, most experts recommend ones containing DEET on skin and permerthrin repellents on clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear. These ingredients can be toxic, so be sure to follow the product’s application guidelines carefully.

Common insect repellents include:

DEET. This pesticide has long been the insect repellent of choice in the United States. DEET blocks a mosquito’s ability to find people who’ve applied it. It does not kill the critters; it just makes them unable to locate those swathed in its essence. (Most mosquito repellents don’t technically “repel” mosquitoes; they block the receptors on mosquitoes’ antennae to moisture, warmth, body odor, etc. — human qualities which attract mosquitoes.)

Picaridin. This pesticide offers protection that’s comparable to DEET at similar concentrations. It also blocks a mosquito’s ability to find people who’ve applied it. Picaridin is nearly odorless, which may make it a good alternative if you’re sensitive to the smells of insect repellents. Picaridin is used worldwide and is the best-selling active ingredient in Europe and Australia

Oil of lemon eucalyptus. This plant-based chemical may offer protection that’s comparable to low concentrations of DEET.

Others. Shorter acting repellents – generally containing plant-based oils such as oil of geranium, cedar, lemon grass, soy or citronella – may offer limited protection.

4. Treating Bites
If a mosquito still finds you to be a tasty meal, use hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or a baking soda paste to ease the discomfort of an itchy bite. A cold pack or baggie filled with crushed ice may help, too.

If a mosquito bite seems to be causing more serious signs and symptoms – such as fever, severe headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands, a rash, lethargy, confusion or sensitivity to light – contact your health care provider. These signs and symptoms may indicate West Nile fever or, rarely, encephalitis. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are important.

Also inspect yourself and your clothing for ticks, both during an outdoor activity and at the end of the day. Prompt removal of attached ticks can prevent some infections.

Pretty Tough Trivia
Mosquitoes are small flying insects that feed on human and animal blood or plant juices. Only female mosquitoes bite to get a blood meal for their growing eggs.

Pretty Tough Tips
In consumer testing, Off! Deep Woods (23.8 percent DEET) provided the longest-lasting protection.

Avon’s Skin-So-Soft has a version with SPF and oil of citronella for repelling bugs. Applying Skin-So-Soft to a bug bite can also alleviate itching. FYI: the product also removes chewing gum from hair or carpeting!

One final tip: watch for mosquitoes landing on you, but not biting – this is a sign that your repellent is beginning to wear off.

Leave a Comment