As summer gets closer and the nights are getting warmer and days are longer, more people are spending time outdoors. In the coming months there is so much to look forward to, picnics, BBQ’s, outdoor parties, concerts, and sporting events. With all outdoor festivities the only one thing we always have to worry about is insects, mosquito’s in particular.
Mosquito’s are flying, biting insects closely related to flies and gnats. Only the female mosquito’s feed on humans, and they need blood in order to produce eggs. During the feeding, the female bites the human skin and injects saliva. The saliva contains proteins that prevent the blood from clotting as well as the proteins that keep the blood flowing into the mosquito’s mouth. Many of the mosquito saliva proteins can cause immune reactions, including allergic reactions. There are a variety of symptoms people get including immediate and delayed swelling and itching around the bite. These reactions tend to decrease over years of exposure. However, mosquitos don’t just cause itchy red bumps, they can also cause diseases like Malaria, yellow fever, Dengue, west Nile, and Japanese encephalitis. While it is rare to see many cases of these dieses in the US, being infected with a mosquito-borne disease is still an issue.
The best way to avoid mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid bites from mosquitos. This can be done in many ways. Keep in mind: Since some people seem to be a mosquito magnet while others around them don’t get a single bite, I have the suspicion there could be a personal body chemistry factor involved, which could explain why a certain remedy will work for some and not for others. The following is a list of remedies to help keep mosquitoes at bay this summer.
How to Prevent Mosquito Bites
1. You are most at risk for mosquito bites - particularly in the islands - as the sun lowers; use extra caution at dusk.
2. Pay attention under the tables when eating in Southeast Asia. Mosquitoes would love to enjoy you as a meal while you eat your own.
3. Wear earth tones, khaki, or neutral clothing while trekking. Studies show that mosquitoes are more attracted to bright clothing.
4. If staying in a place with a mosquito net, use it! Check for holes and apply DEET to any breeches. Do the same for any broken window screens around your accommodation.
5. Mosquitoes are attracted to body odor and sweat; stay clean to avoid attracting unnecessary attention from mosquitoes and clean travel mates.
6. Female mosquitoes normally feed on flower nectar when not trying to reproduce - avoid smelling like one! Sweet-smelling fragrances in soap, shampoo, and lotion will attract more biters.
7. Unfortunately, DEET remains the most effective known way to prevent mosquito bites. Reapply smaller concentrations of DEET every three hours to exposed skin.
8. Although the hot climate usually dictates otherwise, the most natural way to prevent mosquito bites is to expose as little skin as possible.
9. Gecko lizards, considered lucky in Southeast Asia, eat several mosquitoes a minute. If you are lucky enough to have one of these little friends in your room, let her stay!
10. Make a habit of closing your bathroom door after checking in to your accommodation; even small amounts of standing water give mosquitoes a better chance.
DEET - Safe or Toxic?
Developed by the U.S. Army, DEET is the most popular way to control mosquitoes despite the ill effects on skin and health. Concentrations up to 100% DEET can be purchased in the U.S., however Canada barred sales of any repellent containing more than 30% DEET due to its high toxicity.
Contrary to folklore, higher concentrations of DEET are no more effective for preventing mosquito bites than lower concentrations. The difference is that higher DEET concentrations are effective longer between applications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that a solution of 30 - 50% DEET be reapplied every three hours for maximum safety.
When used in conjunction with sunscreen, DEET should always be applied to skin first before sun protection. DEET lowers the effectiveness of sunscreen; avoid products that combine both. Do not apply DEET under your clothes or on your hands, inevitably you will forget and end up rubbing your eyes or mouth!
DEET Alternatives for Preventing Mosquito Bites
1. Break of the leaves of the following plants and rub them on your clothing and/or skin.
2. Bounce Fabric Softener Sheets (hanging out of pocket)
3. Vicks Vapor Rub
4. Eat a diet rich in Garlic, Brewer’s yeast, and vitamin B1. Apparently the smell that comes out of your pores is a natural repellant.
If you are unlucky enough to succumb to mosquito bites this summer, the following is a list of products that’s can help relieve the itching and inflammation of a bite.
1. Calamine Lotion
2. Benadryl Cream
5. Tigers Balm
6. Gold Bond Cream
7. The inside of a banana peel
8. Tea tree oil
9. Lavender oil
10. Witch Hazel
11. Cedar oil
As you take the festivities outdoors I hope these tips will help you enjoy your summer activities and BBQs and make sure you are not one of the tasty menu items.