Whether you’re planning summer activities at home or abroad, it is important to think about ways to avoid seasonal mosquitos if you want to ensure your recreational activities remain enjoyable. Besides the itchy and painful bites mosquitos leave behind, they can carry diseases that are easily transmitted to humans.
While the bites and infections they spread can often be treated, the best course of action is to prevent the bites altogether. If you have control of the environment and can think ahead, there are several ways you can sidestep the pests.
A good place to start is to make sure you have screens to block mosquitos from coming indoors and to be sure to eliminate standing water, where they can lay eggs. When evaluating for standing water, don’t forget to check flower pots, rain gutters, plastic furniture covers, and toys.
If you are out and about, wearing long pants and sleeves can help cover bare skin, which gives mosquitoes easy access. In areas of high mosquito concentrations, treating clothing with permethrin, an anti-parasite cream, adds additional protection. While there are a number of different topical products on the market that claim to repel mosquitos, the validity of these claims is not always the same across brands. When looking for safe and effective ways to prevent mosquito bites, there are some products that demonstrate both safety and efficacy.
DEET is most strongly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some recommended alternatives to DEET are Picaridin and IR3535. While there are many natural mosquito repelling products, unfortunately, most have not been shown to be effective. The exception to this is oil of lemon eucalyptus, which has an efficacy comparable to DEET.
To be sure the product you would like to use is appropriate, the EPA has a free search tool that allows you to find specific products that will repel mosquitos, ticks, or both. When evaluating products, use caution with treated wristbands. Even though these may contain mosquito-repelling agents, they don’t provide a wide enough protection zone to provide adequate coverage for the whole body.
And if your plans include international travel, scheduling an appointment with your physician is important to discuss ways to avoid mosquitos, as well as to obtain preventative medications for mosquito-borne illnesses. While mosquitos are certainly an unpleasant addition to outdoor plans, taking steps to avoid them contributes to having a safe and healthy summer.
Jessica Mayer, DO
Program Director Suburban Family Medicine Residency
Vice-Chair Family Medicine Department
Suburban Family Medicine at Norristown
2705 DeKalb Street, Suite 202
Norristown, PA 19401
Dr. Mayer sees patients of all ages and is dedicated to providing compassionate care for the whole person. She is board certified in Family Medicine and director of Suburban Family Medicine Residency program and vice-chair of Family Medicine Department at Suburban Community Hospital.
Dr. Mayer completed her medical education at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (Pennsylvania) in 2008, internship at Crozer-Chester Medical Center (Pennsylvania) in 2009, and Residency at Mercy Suburban Hospital in 2011.