Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites

Avoid getting bitten and reduce your chances of getting West Nile Virus

Credit: TV Week

Mosquitos are most active in the early morning and at night

Indoors and out, learn to protect yourself from mosquito bites and the 
potential for West Nile virus

If you’re a mosquito magnet, it’s disconcerting to hear that our cool spring mixed with high water levels from the snow melt is creating a surge in the mosquito population. Increases in standing water have created good breeding grounds for the insects.

Apart from the itch and swelling that comes with a mosquito bite, the big concern from experts at the BC Centre for Disease Control is the West Nile virus that can be transmitted to people by a bite from an infected mosquito.

The Dangers of West Nile Virus

The West Nile virus commonly occurs in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. In the past decade there has been a steady increase in reports of infection, starting on the east coast of North America and slowly making its way west. B.C. has had an active surveillance program in place for years.

While the chances for humans of becoming infected are low, 80 per cent of folks who do become infected are not aware of any problems. For the other 20 per cent, symptoms are very similar to the flu — with three to five days of fever, nausea, vomiting, headaches and muscle aches. The people who get sick are most likely to be over age 50. However, the worry is about one in five that these folks will have more serious complications.

People most at risk are those with compromised immune systems, as well as diabetics and the elderly, with whom West Nile can become a neurological infection causing brain inflammation and even long-term problems such as memory deficits. In some cases, the infection can result in paralysis and even be fatal.

Mosquito Protection

When it comes to mosquito repellent, the key is to choose a product that will cover you for the time you plan to be exposed. Some natural products on the market include:

  • 10%-30% lemon eucalyptus oil: The duration of protection is two to five hours and it’s safe for kids three years and older

  • 2% soybean oil: May protect for up to four hours

  • 5%-15% citronella oil: Can give about 30 minutes of relief

For more industrial-strength protection, experts still recommend DEET. The product has been around for decades and is considered safe when used properly. A 10% concentration may ward off insects for about two hours. Use judiciously on children, but the product cannot be used on babies under six months of age.

Also, keep in mind that insect repellents should never be applied to cuts or irritated skin.

Other safety measures include wearing light-coloured clothing, long sleeves and long pants, especially at night and in the early morning hours when mosquitoes are most active.

As a further precaution, remove any standing water from around your home, including gutters and flower pots. Even swimming and wading pools can be a nursery for the little critters. Also, if you can, install screens on your windows.

Your Health with Dr. Rhonda Low airs weekdays during CTV News at Five and CTV News at Six.

Originally published in TV Week. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TV Week e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.