Expert Tips to Protect Yourself from Mosquitoes

| July 2, 2016 | Comments (0)

mosquito-crossing-1540616This summer everyone is talking about how to prevent mosquitoes from spreading the Zika virus. Just when Chicago Moms started researching ways to prevent mosquito borne illnesses, Kari Warberg Block, founder and CEO of earthkind®, sent a press release with all the information informed parents need to keep their families safer this summer. Here are Kari’s tips for better understanding the risk and ways to minimize it throughout the summer season.

1. Mosquitoes are a serious health risk.
At best, mosquitoes are nuisance when they bite you, leaving an itchy, red bump behind. At their worst, mosquitoes can transmit a variety of diseases – sometimes life-threatening. Fortunately, many of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes are well controlled in the U.S., but there are a few you should be aware of:
·      Dengue: A virus that can be transmitted to people after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most common in tropical areas, it can be fatal if untreated, but has a low mortality rate with good medical management. Symptoms include fever, headaches, fatigue, and joint pain.
·      Chikungunya: A virus that can be transmitted to people after being bitten by an infected mosquito. It has a low mortality rate, and symptoms include fever and joint pain.
·      West Nile: A widespread virus with flu-like symptoms that can be transmitted to people, birds, and horses after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
·      Zika: A virus that can be transmitted to people through mosquito bites, sexual contact, or passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn child. Symptoms are usually mild and people may not even know they are infected, but Zika has been linked to severe fetal brain defects. 
2. Not all mosquitoes are the same.
Some are daytime feeders, some are nighttime biters, and others are most active at dawn and dusk. There are many different kinds of mosquitoes, but to prevent disease and protect your family, you really only need to worry about the Aedes and Culex groups.   

Aedes mosquitoes, such as the Asian tiger mosquito, can transmit Dengue fever, Chikungunya, Zika virus, and Yellow fever viruses in the United States. They are most active during the day, and may be found all over the country, but are most common along the east coast and southern states. 

Culex mosquitoes, commonly referred to as house mosquitoes, can transmit West Nile. They usually rest during the day and are most likely to bite at dusk and after dark. They can be found all across America.
3. To protect your family from mosquito-borne illness, you need to prevent and repel mosquitoes.
The key to effective mosquito control relies on both public and individual efforts. Public agencies track the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, and attempt to control mosquito populations with environmental and chemical methods. Individuals can help by making sure their homes and property don’t provide desirable conditions for mosquitoes.
DIY tips to prevent mosquitoes:
·      Eliminate standing water around your home – this is a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes.
·      Clear rain gutters; any leaves or debris creating a block will lead to stagnant water.
·      Use screens on windows, doors, and outdoor spaces whenever possible. Repair holes and keep them well maintained. 
·      Repair leaky outdoor faucets.
·      Change the water in outdoor birdbaths weekly – mosquito larvae need 7-10 days in water to reach maturity.
·      Reduce vegetation near your house and regularly mow your lawn.
How to choose the best mosquito repellent:
Finding the right repellent for you takes more thought than just grabbing the closest can of bug spray – you need to be sure the pesticides you use to protect your home are, in fact, safe for your family.
1. Area Repellents, such as Candles and Diffusers
While studies have shown inconsistent results from products such as citronella candles, you probably already own an easy answer to getting rid of insects outdoors – a box or oscillating fan! Mosquitoes and other flying insects will be greatly reduced in areas with a steady breeze.
2. Ultrasonic Devices
The principal of ultrasonic devices is to create a loud noise above the range of human hearing (above 18-20 kHz) that is unpleasant to pest species to drive them away, but there are challenges with these devices:
1.      Animals can adapt to most situations, and in a short amount of time they become accustomed to the sound.
2.     Studies show ultrasonic devices will not drive pests away if food, water, and shelter are available.
3.     Ultrasonic devices can be heard by dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, and other pet mammals. They have also been shown to cause hearing loss in dogs and should definitely not be used if you have pets.
3. Traps & bug zappers
For a trap to be effective, it needs to attract the target pest. Preventing pest problems before they begin is more effective than intentionally attracting and then trapping or killing mosquitoes and other pests. Bug zappers or electric control devices are not effective at managing mosquito populations. While they may kill or ‘zap’ a large number of insects, they are not limited to mosquitoes. These types of devices can harm beneficial insects such as pollinators like bees, moths, and butterflies, as well as natural predators of mosquitoes like dragonflies. 
EPA-registered repellents are the best choice.
The Environmental Protection Agency extensively reviews products before they can earn registration. When used according to label direction, EPA-registered repellents pose minimal risk to human safety. Four different active ingredients have been registered with the EPA as safe and effective for repelling mosquitoes:
1.      DEET – Safe for use on infants as young 2 months.
2.     Picaridin 
3.     Oil of lemon eucalyptus – Do not use on children under age 3.
4.     IR3535
While a product may contain an EPA registered active ingredient, concentrations may vary, and inactive ingredients may affect efficacy. A reliable resource like Consumer Reports can help you research and compare products to find what’s right for you. 
Shari writes about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. Image courtesy of Free Images.

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About Shari: Shari is a mom, wife, marketing communications professional, gardener, Chicago Blackhawks fan, college sports fan, traveler, quilter, community volunteer, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, Siberian Husky owner, Girl Scout troop leader and book lover. You can find Shari blogging about life with twins at Two Times the Fun and tweeting @slcs48n1. View author profile.

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