This summer, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and your family from summertime pests like mosquitos. While a mosquito bite may seem like no big deal, mosquitos are notoriously effective at spreading disease, and could easily transfer that disease to you through that little bug bite. This year, there is a lot of concern about the Zika virus. Back in February, the World Health Organization declared the Zika outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Zika virus disease has fairly mild symptoms for most people, like fever, joint pain, and irritated eyes. However, Zika can cause severe birth defects if contracted by pregnant women, which makes this virus a significant cause for concern. (For additional information about Zika virus disease, visit the CDC’s Zika virus website.)
Cases of the Zika virus disease have been reported in nearly every country in South and Central America, as well as most of the islands in the Caribbean. The Center for Disease Control predicts that as the disease spreads into U.S. Territories, that travel-associated cases of Zika will increase in the U.S., and possibly lead to an outbreak of locally contracted cases. So regardless of where you live in the world, it’s a great time to re-familiarize yourself with the ways you can keep yourself safe from insect bites. Here are some simple tips for steering clear of mosquitoes this year:
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- Eliminate sources of standing water. Standing water provides a ready-made breeding ground for mosquitos, so make sure that your yard isn’t providing them a safe haven. Check for and dispose of any water sitting in pots, wheelbarrows, buckets, gutters, and anything else capable of holding water. (Chlorinated pools are exempt from this rule, because mosquitoes are repelled by chlorine.)
- Apply and re-apply insect repellent. Read the instructions on your repellent and re-apply according to their guidelines. Take extra care to reapply often if you’re sweating or swimming.
- In addition to applying repellent often, you should apply it correctly. Apply sunscreen first, let it soak in for a few minutes, and then apply insect repellent over your clothes.
- Cover up. Wear long pants and long sleeve shirts if you’ll be outdoors for an extended period of time. You can even find clothes with insect repellent treatment woven right into the fabric, like this shirt.
- During the daytime, dark-colored clothing stands out more to a mosquito than light-colored clothing, so opt for light-colored clothes if you’re going to be outdoors during the day.
- Don’t forget your feet! Mosquitoes are drawn to sweat and smells, so sweaty feet can be magnets for these pests. Wear socks and close-toed shoes when outside.
- Secure the perimeter. Take a few minutes to go around your house and inspect the screens in your windows for holes. Repair any holes with a patch or with a strong repair tape. You can also ask an exterminator for an inspection to determine if there are any potential entry methods for insects that aren’t as obvious.
- Protect your kids. Don’t use repellants on infants 2 months or younger. Instead, drape a mosquito net over their carrier to keep bugs away. For toddlers and young kids, don’t use products with OLE or PMD. It’s also a good idea to apply repellants for them, and make sure to keep it away from their hands (so it doesn’t end up in their mouths.)
- Make your own insect-repelling bracelet. They’re fun to make and they’re perfect for keeping you bug-free during quick trips outside. (If you’re going to be outside for any significant period of time, you should of course use a spray repellent containing DEET. But why not wear the bracelet too? It smells so good!)
- If you do end up with a bug bite or two during the summer, keep relief close at hand by making some frozen aloe cubes. They’ll help to ease itching and reduce any swelling, and they’re great for sunburns, too.
By taking these simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to an enjoyable and insect-free summer season!