Today is World Mosquito Day.
Mosquitos are more than just an annoying pest we swat away. They cause more death and sickness than any other animal on earth. Mosquito bites can be swollen and itchy and can become infected if you scratch them. For some people, these bites cause bad reactions that require medical attention. These flying insects can also be carriers of disease that can be transferred to individuals when bitten.
So, what do you need to know about mosquitos and what can you do to prevent being bitten? We talked to Michele Lively, NP, a nurse practitioner at CPG Internal Medicine at Myrtle Trace, to learn more about the effects of mosquito bites and for advice on how to avoid these pesky bugs.
As a nurse practitioner do you get a lot of questions about mosquitos?
This time of year, insect and mosquito control is a big issue especially since we’ve had so much rain lately. Standing water causes a lot more mosquitos. So, my patients are definitely more interested in what they can do to keep from getting so many insect bites.
What are your recommendations for preventing mosquito bites?
Well certainly using insect repellent is one of the number one ways to prevent bites. Clothing like long sleeves and long pants when appropriate can help. Avoid areas with standing or slow moving water. If you live in a home that doesn’t have air conditioning, then make sure that you have screens on your windows to help keep the mosquitos out. And stay indoors as much as possible during peak seasons.
What should people understand about insect repellents?
When it comes to insect repellents, the one that most people are familiar with is DEET repellent. Some people worry about DEET, but overall it’s been proven in most studies to be safe if it’s used how it is recommended. Now there are several other products and chemicals that can also be used when recommended and if they are EPA approved.
A lot of people are nervous about DEET repellent especially when it comes to their kids. How do you feel about all-natural repellents and are they discouraged?
No, I definitely don’t discourage it. You have to do what is comfortable for you and what provides you with sufficient results. There are several all-natural products out there. Lemon and citronella oil just to name a few and there are many over the counter products that contain these all-natural elements, so they are very easy to obtain these days.
If you choose to use a DEET product, it generally isn’t recommended for a child under the age of two, so you’d definitely want to look at something more holistic or all-natural for those younger aged children. If you do choose a DEET product for your children over two, you’ll want to use one with lower percentages of DEET. Adults and people who will be outside for long periods can use products with higher percentages.
What is it about DEET that makes people nervous from a healthcare standpoint?
There has been some controversy that it has caused health problems but because of that they have done a lot of studies and found that in lower doses it is safe if you use it how it’s recommended. It really should only be applied one time. DEET products are not really recommended along with sun care products in combination because sunscreen should be applied multiple times per day and DEETs should only be applied once. There is a lot of information on this subject out there. The Centers for Disease Control and the US Environmental Protection Agency have a lot of information on their websites for people who would like to do more research on DEET before they decide to use a DEET product.
There are myths about your blood type or body chemistry making you more prone to bug bites. Do you know if there is any truth to those from a medical standpoint?
They do say that specific things make certain people more susceptible to being bitten. Sometimes blood type can be part of it, metabolism, and what you ingest. It’s said that even drinking beer is possibly associated. Even the color of your clothing can influence bites. Now, what colors attract them? I don’t know the answer to that.
When should a person seek medical attention for a mosquito bite?
Some people are going to be bothered more by mosquito bites than others. You can personally treat with Calamine or a hydrocortisone that is sold over the counter. A baking soda and water paste would be a more natural product to use. Apply these several times to the insect bites. Hopefully, the itching will subside and they will start to heal on their own.
If the redness increases in size or they are having more pain at the insect bite or increased swelling, then it may be time to seek treatment from their provider. Also, if you have someone who likes to scratch, especially children, then their bug bites may possibly get infected. Infections and anything that has drainage certainly needs to be looked at by a provider as soon as possible.
It’s said that some people may be allergic to a mosquito’s saliva. Can you shed light on this?
Well certainly there is a histamine reaction in the skin and so certain people do react more to that. If this is really bothersome for someone, they can use antihistamines. There are doses available for both adults and children, such as Benadryl, Claritin and many others.
Click here to learn more about Michele Lively, NP.