Mosquitoes have always been an annoying part of summer, but suddenly they seem to loom larger and buzz louder.
With the world facing its latest health threat from the mosquito-borne Zika virus, you might be tempted to cancel your summer trip to Mexico or points south. Or, in the United States, you might worry about getting bitten by one of the mosquito species that carries the West Nile virus.
While the global village we live in means we can no longer wave off certain diseases as distant epidemics, health officials also say there’s no cause for panic. Still, you can reduce risk by using simple precautions.
The CDC has issued travel warnings for about 50 countries regarding the Zika virus, including nations in the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Pacific islands. Specifics about advisories for each country are available at cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information If you travel to an affected country, try to stay indoors behind screens, closed doors or windows as much as possible, especially during the day when mosquitoes are most active. At night, sleep under a mosquito net.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT CLOTHES
The right clothes can go a long way toward reducing bites anywhere you are. It might seem counterintuitive to don long pants and sleeves in hot weather, but try to cover as much skin as possible. Clothing with a close weave works best to prevent bites, but layered loose-weave clothing works almost as well, says Joe Conlon, medical entomologist and technical adviser to the American Mosquito Control Association. And because bugs are attracted to dark colors, go for clothes in white, beige or light khaki colors, he says. Conlon says you can also buy clothing treated with permethrin, a repellent that’s marketed under the name Insect Shield and can maintain its efficacy through 70 washings.
USE THE RIGHT BUG SPRAY
When it comes to sprays, not all brands are created equal. Consumer Reports found that the most effective repellents for warding off Aedes mosquitoes were Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, each of which contains a 20 percent concentration of the chemical picaridin. Another good one is Off! Deep Woods VIII, which contains 25 percent of the chemical DEET. Not only did these products keep mosquitoes from biting for about eight hours, they are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, which means they are evaluated for safety and effectiveness. Consumer Reports cautions against using many so-called “natural” repellents using citronella, clove, lemon grass or rosemary oils. These products might smell nice, but they won’t keep mosquitoes away for long, and many aren’t registered with the EPA. An exception in the plant oil category is Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, which contains 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus. This repellent warded off mosquitoes for seven hours.
Avoid using picaridin or lemon eucalyptus sprays on young children because they can cause a rash.
STOP MOSQUITOES AT HOME
To steer clear of West Nile-carrying mosquitoes, it’s best to stay indoors at dawn and dusk when they are most active. To eliminate mosquito breeding grounds from your yard, dump or drain water that’s been standing for several days in flower planters, pet dishes, birdbaths and neglected swimming pools, and remove old tires, tin cans or buckets. If you want to enjoy your patio or deck in the evening, Conlon suggests illuminating it with yellow “bug lights” instead of incandescent white lights.