Preventing West Nile Virus
Take this mosquito bait quiz:
Question: Who is most likely to get bit by mosquitoes?
So which is the correct answer? All of the above!
- Tom, who goes jogging at dawn in his shorts and tank top.
- Mary, who sprays her hair, puts on deodorant, perfume, sunscreen, and her sharp-but-scanty black patio dress, and heads for a late afternoon lawn party, ready to party into the night.
- Harry, who is into fixing cars but not into house and yard maintenance. His country acreage features discarded tires, weeds and dense shrubs, old window screens he’s never replaced, and a stagnant fish pond.
- Neil, who sweats profusely and likes to wear white linen shorts and shirts with his Birkenstocks when sitting out back at dusk.
- Billy, age 4, who gets up at 6 a.m., eats a quick banana and then heads outside to play in the mud puddles on the patio.
- Ken’s cookout guests who gather around the barbecue at dusk after a brisk game of volleyball, eating potato chips and peanuts while he cranks up the fire for hamburgers.
As the summer escalates, it’s important to protect yourself and your children from mosquito bites. Mosquitoes carry viruses – encephalitis, malaria, dengue fever, and now West Nile – and the collective amount of virus builds as the summer progresses.
You’re probably leery of insect repellants, especially DEET, so I offer other suggestions. Do consider its use in extreme situations. I haven’t hesitated to use it when in the Caribbean (dengue fever) or St. Petersburg (built on a drained swamp), just as I got my immunizations up-to-date for travel in these countries. (Diphtheria outbreak in Moscow.)
I don’t use insect repellants at home in the US, except when visiting my friends whose yard is a mosquito-breeding haven, and whose children lure me outside at dawn and dusk.
If you use insect repellant, be aware that the following things will dilute its effectiveness: rain, perspiration, swimming, many sunscreens, evaporation from wind or high temperatures, and absorption into the skin.
When applying, especially to children, read the instructions carefully, and follow them. This applies to both application and storage.
Here is what you need to know and what you should do to avoid the West Nile
- Clean up your property!
Mosquitoes breed in standing water, which requires a container. Eliminate anything around your yard that supplies a container for water – tires (the number one breeding site for mosquitoes in the US!), children’s toys and play equipment, dishes left out, plant containers, dog water dishes, bird baths and water gardens that don’t have circulating water. Eliminate weeds, shrubs and tall grass; that’s where the adults like to hide.
- Stay inside at dawn and dusk, especially when the air is calm. This is the favorite time for the females, the biter.
- Mosquitoes love carbon dioxide (CO2) and lactic acid. According to Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. (chemistry), we emit more CO2 when we’re hot and after we’ve been exercising. Burning candles and fires also emit CO2. We emit more lactic acid when we’ve been exercising, and after
having eaten salty foods or foods high in potassium.
- Wear light, loose clothing that covers the body. Mosquitoes prefer dark clothes. Mosquitoes prefer certain skin temperatures, often our hands and feet, because they’re cooler, so wear socks and shoes.
- Mosquitoes are worse in urban areas. Chicago, Detroit and Boston have been high on the list. This is mainly because there are more people and also more discarded tires.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to floral and fruity scents, and sweat. The moisture and chemical mix of human perspiration is a big lure. Obviously don’t wear perfume, but consider as well: sunscreen, suntan lotion, deodorant, hair spray, and the use of fabric softener on your clothing.
- Mosquitoes appear to be repelled by some natural oils. Citronella, castor, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, clove, and geranium. Bear in mind that “natural” doesn’t always mean “safe,” and individuals have different reactions to these natural oils.
- Don’t let them get into your house; they’re just as happy to bite you inside as out. Get screens up and keep them repaired, when you leave the house, open and close doors quickly, and educate your children about keeping doors closed.
- Insect repellers bring mixed reviews, but here are a couple that appear to work well:
- Mosquito Dunks, which eliminate them before they’re big
enough to bite. You can get it at http://www2.yardiac.com.
- Mosquito magnet ® which “mimics a human by emitting a lume of carbon dioxide, heat and moisture, and a short-range attractant, octenol, which is irresistible to female mosquitoes,” available here:
- The most susceptible populations to any virus, including West Nile, are children, seniors and anyone with a compromised immune system.
About the author:
Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach & Consultant, is the author of
“Midlife Dating Manual for Women". She offers coaching, internet courses,
teleclasses and ebooks around emotional intelligence and trains and certifies EQ
coaches. You can visit her
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