Since I became pregnant, I have become increasingly concerned with how I can prevent Zika. I am one of those people that seem to get mosquito bites no matter what I do. By mid-summer my legs will be covered in small, itchy, red bites. As you’ve probably heard, pregnant women who have contracted Zika have been giving birth to babies born with microcephaly – a birth defect causing abnormally small heads and brains that usually results in death. Yes, the news is scary but local medical professionals say to be cautious, not overly concerned. After all, there may be a higher risk of getting West Nile this year than Zika. At any rate, here is what we currently know:
No mosquitoes with the virus have been found in the United States yet, although the mosquitoes that are the carriers are here. They are the Aedes species and are known for their black and white striped legs. They like to come inside homes and they tend to be attracted to legs especially below the knees (CDC). A recent NPR story says that health officials expect to see Zika in the Unites States within the next few weeks and Texas is a high-risk area, especially in Houston and at the border so taking preventative measures now is a good idea (NPR). The CDC recently changed the way they are counting Zika rates, which made the number of those with the virus in the United States rise to nearly 600. All of these contracted Zika from mosquitoes outside the United States or from partners who had travelled outside the United States since it can be passed through unprotected sex. There is growing concern about Olympic travel this year but so far the games are going on as planned with the World Health Organization supporting the location of the Rio Games. Those with Zika experience mild flu-like symptoms and joint pain so if you are experiencing these symptoms, be sure to consult your health professional. While many adults may not even realize they have Zika, young children will be more at-risk since they have weaker immune systems. Therefore, you should take caution so your child doesn’t get mosquito bites (more details below). If there is an outbreak of Zika in the United States the information may change so staying up-to-date is the best way to go.
So what do we do to take caution? There are a number of steps you can take to make sure you and your family stay safe this summer.
Eliminate Standing Water
Standing water provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Check your yard for places where water might gather. Turn over buckets when not in use, pour out those baby pools, and make sure you don’t have any drippy spouts. Consider using sand in areas where water typically lingers.
Consider Treating Your Yard
It’s fairly easy to find local companies to spray your yard for mosquitoes. If you spend a lot of time outside, consider doing a quick search for a company that fits within your budget. There are several that use natural and kid/pet-safe treatments.
Use Mosquito Repellent
Use a mosquito repellent that has been shown to be effective. I don’t love dousing myself in chemicals on a regular basis either but those chemicals might just save my baby’s life. And, men don’t forget to do the same since you can transmit the virus to your partners. Be sure to follow the instructions and reapply regularly.
PROTECTING INFANTS & YOUNG CHILDREN
Mosquito repellents are not recommended for children under 2 months. If you are venturing outdoors with your infant, you can place mosquito netting around their stroller. Protect them with long sleeves and long pants. A fever over 100.4 in infants under two months should always be evaluated by a doctor.
Children under three should not be sprayed with repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol. You should also take care not to spray any repellents directly onto a child’s face. Instead, spray on your hands and then rub on face while their avoiding eyes and mouth. Avoid any cuts or open wounds as well.
Consumer reports tested 15 sprays and came up with their top 5 mosquito repellents. They included:
- Sawyer Picaridin – top overall because it protects against Aedes and Culex (West Nile carrying) mosquitoes and deer ticks for 8 hours. It contains 20% picaridin.
- Ben’s 30% Deet Tick & Insect Wilderness Spray – stopped the Aedes mosquitoes for up to 7.5 hours.
- Repel Lemon Eucalyptus – contains 30% lemon eucalyptus and keeps the Aedees mosquitoes at bay for 7 hours.
- Repel Scented Family – contains 15% deet and repels the Aedes mosquito for 5 hours and other mosquitoes for up to 8 hours.
- Natrapel 8 Hour – worked for up to 8 hours to resist the Aedes mosquitoes and contains 20% picaridin.
A note on natural repellents:
Consumer Reports does not recommend using natural repellents for protection against the Aedes mosquitoes. They are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency for safety or effectiveness (check for the EPA number on the back of products). In the Consumer Reports tests, the natural products also failed within the first hour of application. A lot of moms I know swear that they work and they feel more comfortable using the natural products, especially on their young children. If you go this route, be sure to reapply often. We like The Crunchy Hive, Springdale Handmade, and Buzz Away if you are going to give natural a try.
Other Possible Prevention Options
Create your own citronella candles! There are beautiful and would make a great centerpiece for your table all summer long. Since these mosquitoes can be found indoors, it isn’t a bad idea to keep the candles handy. Find out how to make them here.
Try planting lemongrass or citronella plants near your house since mosquitoes don’t like them. They will look beautiful (as long as you remember to water them this summer) and will act as a natural barrier!
Try not to fret too much about those pesky mosquitoes. If you take some of these precautions, you can still enjoy a summer full of outdoor activities!