Prevent Mosquito Bites: Find An Effective Repellent
In light of recent news concerning the health risks of mosquito bites, many people are itching to find the most effective repellent this summer.
It’s not a simple task.
Not all repellents work on every species of mosquito. Two types of mosquitoes prefer to bite during the day. A third likes to feed from evening to morning. This may explain why some mosquito repellents seem to work great one day, but leave you covered in bites the next.
In the United States, mosquitoes have been known to transmit the West Nile Virus, which can cause serious disease for some people. People who travel outside the continental U.S. face a greater risk of getting bitten by a mosquito that carries other viruses that cause diseases such as: dengue, chikungunya and Zika – recently tied to birth defects in babies born to born to women infected while pregnant.
To protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites, you’ll need to do a little research online and some label reading. Health authorities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using an insect repellent that’s been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency with one of the following active ingredients:
- Picaridin (also called KBR 3023)
- oil of lemon eucalyptus
- para-menthane-diol (PMD)
So which ones will work best for you? That depends on how long you need a repellent to be effective and whether you also want it to protect against tick bites. The EPA has created an online search tool that allows consumers to check if a company has any registered products or to find a repellent by ingredient or length of protection.
Although the EPA doesn’t recommend or endorse any products, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women, according to the CDC.
It’s important to follow the instructions on the bottle, especially when applying insect repellent to children. Insect repellent should not be applied to baby younger than 2 months of age. If you’re using oil of lemon eucalyptus or PMD, do not use these ingredients on children under 3.
For those who are trying to specifically avoid the mosquito that transmits the Zika virus, there is some good news. Researchers from New Mexico State University have tested eight commercial mosquito repellents to see how effective they were against the Aedes aegypti species.
None of them provided 100 percent, but after four hours the most effective products were ones that contained DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus, according to the study published in the Journal of Insect Science.
It’s also important to note that nearly all of the Zika cases reported in the United States as of mid-June are from people who traveled to a place outside the continental states where Zika is spreading. There have been no cases reported of people getting the Zika virus from a mosquito bite that occured in the continental U.S.
With that in mind, CDC health authorities say they cannot predict if Zika virus will spread to the states. For mosquitoes to cause an outbreak all of the following must happen:
- People infected with Zika must enter the U.S.
- An Aedes aegypti mosquito in the U.S. must bite an infected person during their first week of infection when the virus can be found in their blood.
- The infected mosquito would then have to live long enough to multiply or bite another person.
- The cycle would have to continue multiple times to start an outbreak.
In the meantime, health providers recommend protecting against mosquito bites, especially if you are traveling. Using insect repellent is the best way to prevent diseases like Zika, dengue and chikungunya.
Sources: CDC, EPA, Journal of Insect Science
For additional information about mosquito prevention, consult your primary care provider. Call 804-359-WELL or visit goodhelpdocs.com if you need help finding a healthcare provider.