For many people, mosquitoes are a mere annoyance. They buzz around your family picnic, and the resulting bites can leave you scratching all summer long. But in recent months, mosquitoes have gone from simply bothersome to a possible health crisis, courtesy of the Zika virus.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the virus isn't usually fatal, hospitalizations are frequent because people often ignore the core symptoms. Conditions like joint pain, rash and fever are sometimes attributed to other ailments. The CDC added that between 2015 and 2016, there were 1,996 reported cases in the U.S. and its territories, and Zika has hit practically every state in the Union.
"Zika has impacted nearly every sate in the Union."
To protect yourself and your family from Zika mosquitoes, or any of these bugs for that matter, follow these four handy tips:
1. Long sleeves for the win
Long sleeves are a great, albeit underutilized tool, in maintaining summer safety. Not only do these items reduce the surface area of bug bites, but they also block out harmful UV rays. The CDC suggested you treat all clothing with permethrin, which is a special insecticide and insect repellant. Just be sure to avoid direct skin contact and to follow any treatment directions carefully. Fortunately, permethrin will stand a few washes, and that means you won't have to re-coat quite as often.
2. Wear the right repellent
When combating Zika mosquitoes, you're going to need the right insect repellent. The CDC advised people to only purchase those that had been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. The most effective brands will feature a combination of IR3535, picaridin, DEET and/or oil of lemon eucalyptus. However, as the Los Angeles Times pointed out, be sure to put the repellent on properly. It should always go on after your sunscreen as it's the repellent that's going to ward off the bugs.
3. Don't forget to clean up
It's not enough to just protect your skin from Zika mosquitoes. If you really want to protect your family, then you'll safeguard your home per instructions from Reader's Digest. The most important step is to rid your home of any standing water, and just one tablespoon is enough for the mosquitoes' breeding purposes. That means any water in bottles, sinks, flower pots, garbage cans or anywhere else. Pools, meanwhile, are actually fine as the chlorine acts as a repellent.
4. Travel with caution
Summer is a great time to travel. However, as the CDC noted, traveling is often the way that Zika is spread. In fact, all 691 cases reported in U.S. states in 2015-2016 were travel-associated. This shouldn't prevent you from a relaxing vacation, but you might want to change your plans based on outbreaks. The CDC organized this helpful guide that compiles the number of cases per country and territory. It's important to be extra cautious if you're heading to South America.
If you suddenly experience joint pain, fever or other symptoms, seek out medical help right away. Fortunately, if you're on the Eastern Seaboard, there is always a CareWell Urgent Care Center nearby. With highly rained physicians at every location, CareWell is prepared to help address any number of bug-related illnesses or ailments.