The best way to prevent viral encephalitis is to take precautions to avoid exposure to viruses that can cause the disease:
- Practice good hygiene. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before and after meals.
- Don't share utensils. Don't share tableware and beverages.
- Teach your children good habits. Teach your children to practice good hygiene and to avoid sharing utensils at home and school.
- Get vaccinations. Keep your own and your children's vaccinations current. Before traveling, talk to your doctor about recommended vaccinations for different destinations.
Protection against mosquitoes and ticks
To minimize your exposure to mosquitoes and ticks, follow these tips:
- Dress to protect yourself. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if you're outside between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active and when you're in a wooded area with tall grasses and shrubs where ticks are more common.
Apply mosquito repellent. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered a number of products containing certain chemicals that repel mosquitoes. The registered chemicals are DEET, IR3535, lemon eucalyptus and picaridin. Products with higher concentrations of the active ingredient provide longer protection.
Lemon eucalyptus isn't recommended for use on children younger than 3 years old.
Mosquito repellents can be applied to both the skin and clothes. To apply repellent to your face, spray it on your hands and then wipe it on your face. If you're using both sunscreen and a repellent, apply sunscreen first.
- Use EPA-recommended insecticide. The EPA also recommends the use of products containing permethrin. These products, which repel and kill tics and mosquitoes, are sprayed on clothing, tents and other outdoor gear. Permethrin shouldn't be applied to the skin.
- Avoid mosquitoes. Refrain from unnecessary activity in places where mosquitoes are most prevalent. If possible, avoid being outdoors from dusk till dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Keep mosquitoes out of your home. Repair holes in window and door screens.
- Get rid of water sources outside your home. Where possible, eliminate standing water in your yard, where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. Common problems include flowerpots or other gardening containers, flat roofs, old tires and clogged gutters.
- Control mosquitoes in standing water. Fill ornamental pools with mosquito-eating fish. Use mosquito dunks — products that are toxic to mosquito larvae — in birdbaths, ponds and garden water barrels.
- Look for outdoor signs of viral disease. If you notice sick or dying birds or animals, report your observations to your local health department.
Protection for young children
Insect repellents aren't recommended for use on infants younger than 2 months of age. Instead, cover an infant carrier or stroller with mosquito netting.
Tips for using mosquito repellent with children include the following:
May 15, 2014
- Always assist children with the use of mosquito repellent.
- Spray on clothing and exposed skin.
- Apply the repellent when outdoors to lessen the risk of inhaling the repellent.
- Spray repellent on your hands and then apply it to your child's face. Take care around the eyes and ears.
- Don't use repellent on the hands of young children who may put their hands in their mouths.
- Wash treated skin with soap and water when you come indoors.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Feb. 15, 2014.
- Encephalitis and meningitis fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/encephalitis_meningitis/detail_encephalitis_meningitis.htm. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Encephalitis. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic_disorders/brain_infections/encephalitis.html. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Hardarson HS. Acute viral encephalitis in children and adolescents: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 15. 2014.
- Johnson RP, et al. Viral encephalitis in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 15, 2014.
- Hardarson HS. Acute viral encephalitis in children and adolescents: Pathogenesis and etiology. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 15, 2014.
- Hardarson HS. Acute viral encephalitis in children and adolescents: Treatment and prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 15, 2014.
- FAQ: Insect repellant use and safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Insect repellent use and safety in children. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/EmergencyPreparedness/ucm085277.htm. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Prevention & control. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/prevention/index.html. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.