How can you help to reduce annoyance from mosquitoes and also protect yourself and your family from infection?
Except as noted, the following tips come from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/or Richard Pollack, Ph.D. Pollack is a research fellow in infectious diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health.
- Stay indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening. This is when many mosquitoes are most active. Certain mosquitoes will be active at midday as well. If you must be outside during peak hours, take extra care to use the precautions below.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when you are outdoors. The clothing may form a barrier against some mosquito bites.
- Apply insect repellent to exposed skin when you go outside and are exposed to mosquitoes. Research studies indicate that some insect repellents are better than others. Those containing the active ingredients DEET or picaridin provide the most effective and long-lasting protection. Oil of lemon eucalyptus, a plant-based repellent, provides protection similar to repellents with low concentrations of DEET.
- Follow manufacturer directions. Do not apply to skin that will be covered by clothing.
- Choose a product that will protect you for the amount of time you expect to be outside. For example, a study found that 24% DEET provided about five hours of protection. A 7% DEET product protected for about two hours. Concentrations higher than about 30% provide little additional protection. They also may increase the chance of irritation or fabric damage.
- DEET-based products can be used with sunscreen. No studies are available on the use of other repellents with sunscreen. Apply sunscreen first, then DEET. Reapply either product as needed.
- Spray clothing with repellents. That's because mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. Besides the recommended repellents, products containing permethrin may be used on clothing. Read, understand and follow label directions.
- When applying insect repellents to children, select the lowest concentration of DEET appropriate for the amount of time the child will be outdoors, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The product should not contain more than 30% DEET, the AAP says. The label for products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus recommends not using them on children under age 3.
- Do not allow children to apply insect repellents to themselves. When applying repellent to your child, keep the product away from their eyes and mouth. Do not apply to children's hands. Their hands may end up in their eyes or mouth, causing irritation.
- Do not use insect repellent on infants younger than 2 months, the AAP says. Use mosquito netting over strollers and infant carriers.
- Install or repair window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outdoors.
- Dump out standing water where mosquitoes may breed. Water may collect in places such as tires, empty flowerpots, toys and open garbage cans. Change water often in birdbaths. Keep your wading pool covered when not in use.
- Keep your gutters clean, also to prevent standing water.
- Contact your local mosquito-control agency for other advice or assistance.
- If you have a pond, consider buying mosquito-eating fish. Perhaps the best known is the mosquito fish, Gambusia affinis. Before buying, however, contact your state fish and wildlife agency and mosquito control agency. Make sure this is appropriate and legal in your area.
- Note: Vitamin B, "ultrasonic" devices and mosquito traps have been found ineffective in preventing mosquito bites or reducing risk of infection.