Health Encyclopedia

Take the Bite Out of Spring

Mosquitoes can be more than a nuisance--they can ruin your outdoor plans and threaten your health. So it’s a good idea to protect yourself and your family as the weather heats up.

Mosquitoes rest during the day in dark, humid areas, then come out at dusk to feed on animals and humans. The skin irritation you feel after a bite is your allergic reaction to their saliva.

Mosquito-borne illnesses, such as West Nile Virus (WNV), can be passed through just one bite. Still, the chances of any given bite causing the disease are very low.

WNV, a potentially serious illness, is a seasonal scourge in North America that flares up in the summer and lasts into the fall. According to the CDC, more than 30,000 cases have been reported in the U.S. since 1999, with more than 1,200 deaths.

Protect yourself

The best way to avoid WNV is to avoid mosquito bites.

The most direct approach may be the use of a mosquito repellent—and Americans have more options than ever. The CDC recommends four active ingredients in effective repellents: DEET (diethylmetatoluamide), picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus.

As temperatures rise, follow these safety measures to cut down on bites:

  • Use insect repellent outside.

  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes, and socks.

  • Stay indoors, especially at dusk and dawn.

  • Fix window and door screens.

  • Get rid of breeding sites, such as all forms of standing water.

  • Keep grass and weeds cut short.

  • Use mosquito netting if you sleep outdoors.

  • Don’t depend on insect light electrocuters (“bug zappers”) to control mosquitoes. They do little to reduce biting in an area.

Think of these steps as a way to bite back.