Many diseases such as Zika, Malaria, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus, and Dengue Fever are spread by mosquitos. The biting insects are found almost everywhere, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of being bitten. Here are some tips I recommend that you follow at home and traveling abroad.
- Remove standing water from your yard. Mosquito larvae can grow in small amounts of water, even as little as a bottle cap! Do a thorough cleaning of your yard and remove any standing water, such as bird baths, catch basins, or clogged gutters.
- Make sure your window and sliding door screens are intact. If there are holes, you should replace them immediately.
- Keep your skin covered when walking into wooded areas. My favorite fabric is linen because it covers your skin yet allows for good air circulation and keeps you cool. I also recommend tucking your pants into your socks to prevent the insects from crawling or flying into your pant legs.
- Mosquitos generally do not like air conditioning. Keeping your bedroom and house cool can prevent them from coming in.
- Avoid applying personal care products with fragrance. Mosquitos are attracted to scents such as perfumes. Even a strongly scented deodorant will attract them.
- If you will be outdoors, you can burn mosquito coils (a type of incense) or light citronella candles. Mosquitos do not like to be near smoke as it reminds them of a forest fire.
- Generally, most people get bitten at dawn and dusk periods, so be particularly careful if you are outdoors during these times. However, there are mosquitos that feed during the daytime as well.
- Use a repellant with at least 20% DEET on your skin. Avoid products containing 100% DEET on your skin as they can be quite irritating. I recommend using a spray called Deep Woods Off! Another handy DEET-containing product is REPEL wipes. These are great if you want to be discrete about your mosquito avoidance and not create a plume of chemicals which could be irritating to people nearby. They are also very convenient for travel because, unlike the spray bottles, they are TSA compliant for carrying onboard airplanes.
- If you will be outdoor extensively (hiking outdoors, outdoor picnic, etc.) you can should use Permethrin Spray on your clothing in addition to DEET on your skin. You can even spray the clothing the day before. Be sure to do this in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors, and allow to dry. Do not spray permethrin on skin as this can cause irritation. A great idea is to spray a lightweight scarf or old T-shirt with permethrin and put it in a plastic bag so that if you do note that the mosquitos are biting, you can wrap up with it and be protected.
- If you are applying sunscreen and mosquito repellant spray, you should always apply the sunscreen first and then the mosquito repellant. Doing it in reverse can cause the sunscreen to slide off and become ineffective.
Protection is key to prevention of mosquito-borne diseases. Be prepared and you will not need to worry!