While most people think of mosquitoes as just annoying pests, they can do a lot more than just leave an itchy bite! Biting insects, including mosquitoes, can carry many diseases and cause thousands to get sick and possibly die each year. It is important to know how to protect yourself and what you are protecting yourself from to stay safe!
Diseases Cause By Biting Insects
- West Nile Virus – Almost 40,000 people in the US have been reported with West Nile since 1999, and more than 1600 have died. Though anyone can get it, there is a higher risk of complications for anyone over 50 years old. This disease is carried by at least 62 mosquito species.
- Dengue Fever – Dengue Fever is a serious disease carried by mosquitoes. Unless treated, Dengue Fever will cause Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, resulting in permanent disabilities or death of the victim. Due to world travel, it may soon become worse than Malaria world-wide.
- Malaria – There are anywhere from 350 to 500 million cases of Malaria world-wide every year. Symptoms of Malaria include fevers, chills, headache, muscle ache and malaise. In severe cases, the symptoms can worse and even result in death, especially in children.
- Lyme Disease – Lyme disease is a bacteria infection spread by ticks. Because ticks can be unnoticed for several days, the longer they bite, the higher risk of passing the disease. Early symptoms of Lyme disease is a pink or red rash that looks like a bull’s-eye on a dart board. There may also be flu-like symptoms. Untreated infections can lead to muscle pain, joint pain and neurological symptoms such as temporary paralysis of the face. In late stages it can cause symptoms similar to fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Typhus Fever – Typhus fever is transmitted by ticks and fleas. It can cause fever, severe headache and skin rash.
How to Protect Yourself
There are many ways to protect yourself from biting insects. Using a combination of the below methods will best help protect you.
- Insect Repellent on Skin and Clothing – Whether a short trip outside or a hike in the woods, it is important to always use insect repellent. Look for repellant with active ingredients of DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus(OLE) or PMD. The EPA has a list of Insect Repellents and their Effectiveness to help you find the right repellent.
- Other Insect Repellants – Citronella candles can help repel mosquitoes from a certain location. There are also insect traps that will attract and kill mosquitoes and other flying insects. Some trap small areas while others can trap up to an acre.
- Mosquito-Proof Your Property – Remove objects that collect water, such as non-draining flower pots, bird baths, wheelbarrows and buckets. Clean clogged cutters which can contain standing water. Fill in ditches and low areas that collect water after rainfall. Fill in hollow logs. Repair damaged screens, cracks and leaks in your home to prevent intruders and use bug lights that are less attractive to bugs. Keep swimming pools clean.
- Wear Appropriate Clothing – Wearing long sleeved shirts and pants, boots and hats can help reduce skin exposure and reduce the chance of being bit. Tucking in shirts into pants, pants into sicks and closed-toed shoes can also help.
- Peak Insect Times – Although mosquitoes bite at any time, there are certain seasons and hours they are more active. Mosquito activity beings when the temperature reaches 50 degrees and their volume increases as the temperature increases. When the temperatures start to drop below 50 degrees, they being to die off or hibernate. The first frost is usually a good sign to end of mosquito season.In Texas and Louisiana, Mosquito season begins in Early February or March. In Kansas and Missouri, mosquito season begins in early April. Mosquitoes also bite more often between dusk and dawn, so limiting your evening activities outside can help prevent bites.
Be safe this summer and protect yourself! If you suspect and insect bite and have any symptoms, call your doctor immediately!