If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve heard about Zika, a mosquito borne virus and its link to birth defects. For women who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, travel to Zika-affected areas is not recommended. If you find you must travel to affected areas, or you just don’t want any red, itchy welts, there are three things you can do to prevent bites.
1. Use insect repellent that contains 20% or more of DEET for protection that lasts up to several hours. Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon. Always follow product directions and reapply as directed.
- If you are in a hot climate and also need sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
- Don’t spray insect repellent on the skin under your clothing.
2. Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
- Consider using permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself. Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
3. Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms. Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
If, after all of your precautions, you are still bitten, follow these tips to treat your bites:
- Avoid scratching mosquito bites.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to reduce itching.
While there is no cure for Zika, the most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eye. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. There is no medicine to treat Zika, but symptoms may be treated with plenty of rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration and taking acetaminophen or paracetamol to relieve fever and pain.
Your best bet is to try to avoid being bitten at all. Do you have any other ways to stop mosquitos? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.