Guest blog by Kitaen Jones, Arkansas Department of Health
The summer is here and in full swing, and so are those pesky mosquitoes. When preparing to start my day, I always go through the same checklist: Phone, keys and insect repellant.
Since the Zika virus is such a serious topic, mosquitoes are on my mind. Even though all of our cases of Zika in Arkansas to date have been travel-related, I still make sure to take the necessary preventative measures. I don’t want to risk Zika, or any other illness that can be transmitted by mosquitoes!
Zika is mostly spread by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, though it can be spread through sexual transmission. According to the CDC, the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red, itchy eyes. Symptoms are usually mild and last several days to a week. Many people who have Zika will not experience symptoms. Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika.
Even with the best of intentions, it can be so confusing to shop for insect repellent. There are so many labels and active ingredients in the repellent aisle. I have found that there are certain things to really pay attention to when shopping for insect repellant. First, I make sure to read the labels to confirm that the concentration and active ingredients are both safe and effective. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered products with DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, IR3535, or 2-undecanone are generally recommended.
Second, I think about my preferences for ingredients. I personally prefer oil of lemon eucalyptus because it is a naturally occurring compound from the gum eucalyptus tree. Many people reach for products with DEET, which is the most common active ingredient in repellants, or Picaridin, which is modeled after a compound that naturally occurs in the black pepper plant.
Third, I consider how often I want to reapply. The amount of active ingredients in a product makes a difference in how often I have to reapply. For example, if the repellant has a high percentage of DEET, then you may not need to reapply it as often, but if it has a lower percentage, you may need to reapply more frequently. The oil of lemon eucalyptus that I prefer has to be reapplied much more frequently than some other repellents. It’s very important to always read the labels and follow the product’s instructions to ensure that you are being fully protected.
Along with wearing insect repellant and reapplying when necessary, I take steps to protect myself by doing the following:
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when I can.
- Using air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Empty standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets around my home. Mosquitoes can breed in as little amount of water as a bottle cap.
In the midst of travelling, taking nature walks or just relaxing outside, I am always mindful of the possibilities of mosquito borne diseases. The more knowledgeable I am about prevention and protection, the better I feel about taking on the summer and all of its adventures.