One dreaded aspect of summer is bug bite season.
Mosquitoes are not only annoying, but they’re humankind’s most vicious killer. For thousands of years, mosquitoes have transmitted disease and shaped our world by spreading Malaria to millions.
And they’re still doing so. Malaria is still problematic in parts of the world. These vectors spread other illnesses that make humans sick.
Recently, officials in Florida affirmed several chickens tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus that can be lethal to humans. In addition, reports of West Nile have populated the news.
“Mosquitoes can ruin your evening outdoors, yes, but they also have the potential to make you sick,” said Dr. Joseph Gross, an infectious disease specialist at Beverly Hospital. “It’s important to take some precaution if you spend time outdoors. Luckily, we have plenty of ways to prevent bug bites.”
Below are some common and effective ways to ward off mosquitoes (among other vectors).
1. Insect Repellent
With numerous brands and types of mosquito repellent out there, it’s hard to know what to purchase. There are repellents that use essential oils as an active ingredient, but if you’re in a place with an infestation, the reliable repellents include various amounts of DEET. This chemical has been used as an effective repellent since it was developed for the U.S. military in 1946. Despite its long history of use, concerns about the chemical’s safety still abound. There have been very rare cases of seizures related to DEET and even a few deaths since it was introduced. But overall the level of DEET poisoning is extremely low. Always read the spray’s label for instructions on responsible applications.
DEET concentration should be at least 25 percent, which protects for an average of five hours but varies depending on conditions. Higher concentrations don’t work better although they may protect for longer
DEET also protects well against ticks, which is an added bonus. However, do not apply insect repellent to infants under two month of age.
2. Protective Clothing
Your clothing choices will go a long way in preventing bug bites. If you’re hiking in the woods, consider wearing light, long-sleeved shirts and pants that cover your entire leg. Not only does this prevent mosquito bites, but covering up while outdoors keeps those dreaded ticks away, too.
Another option for clothing is permethrin, a repellent than can be used to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents, or pre-treated clothing can be purchased. But it should not be used directly on the skin.
3. Drain Stagnated Water
This could be a baby pool or bird feeder in your backyard. Mosquitoes thrive and multiply in stagnant water.
4. Mosquito-Repelling Foliage
Certain plants are great natural mosquito repellents. Some of these include catnip, marigolds, basil, lavender, peppermint, garlic, geraniums and lemon balm.
5. Yard Treatments
Lawn treatments can be effective in ridding your yard of mosquitoes. The drawbacks can be price and the active ingredients in the pest control, which may carry some risk for humans and animals. If you decide a lawn treatment is necessary, be sure to use a professional mosquito-abatement company.
6. Holistic Options
Citronella candles are a popular option for those who want to avoid DEET or chemicals in lawn treatments. Citronella oil is an essential oil obtained from the leaves and stems of different species of Cymbopogon. Whether a candle works or not seems to depend on the person. One Consumer Reports study showed an oscillating fan (even while outside!) worked much better at repelling pesky mosquitoes than the candles.
For more information on how to protect your family from mosquitoes, speak with your health care provider.