Protecting Your Loved Ones From Mosquito-borne Illness

They itch, they turn red, they could even make you sick – those pesky mosquito bites can be a major annoyance this time of the year. With recent reports of mosquitos carrying the West Nile virus in the area and the emergence of the Chikungunya virus, you may be wondering how to protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquito-borne illnesses when you want to have fun in the great outdoors.

Family medicine doctor Roger Kruse, MD, ProMedica Physicians, offers the following advice:

  1. Use insect repellent: Insect repellents with DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil are the most popular. If you do choose a product with DEET, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend products for children contain between 10 – 30 percent DEET. Also, make sure you follow all the directions on the repellent labels.
  2. When possible, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks: This summer has been cooler than normal, so it’s been fairly comfortable to wear clothing that covers up your skin. It’s important to note that mosquitos can bite through clothing, so you may want to spray your clothes with insect repellent.
  3. Remove standing water from around your home: To help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home, empty standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes and birdbaths on a regular basis.
  4. Make sure open windows and doors have screens:Install or repair screens in windows and doors to help prevent mosquitos from entering your home.

If you do get a mosquito bite, try to avoid scratching it. Applying a hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion may provide some relief. If you develop a fever, headaches, body aches, joint pains, vomiting or diarrhea, contact your doctor. According to the CDC, most people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms but less than 1% develops a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness. Chikungunya disease does not often result in death, but the symptoms can be severe and disabling.

Dr. Kruse will be answering questions about the West Nile virus and other health topics on 13 ABC at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, July 30. Submit your questions here.