You can take a number of steps to limit your exposure to mosquitoes and protect yourself from bites when mosquitoes are unavoidable.
Use insect repellent
Most insect repellent products applied to the skin contain one of three active ingredients:
- Picaridin (also called KBR 3023)
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (a plant-based compound)
These repellents temporarily keep hungry mosquitoes from identifying you as a food source. The higher the concentration of DEET or picaridin in a product, the longer its protection will last. An application of a standard oil of lemon eucalyptus product protects you about as long as a product containing DEET at a low concentration.
Used according to package directions, insect repellents are generally safe for children and adults, with a few exceptions:
- Don't use DEET-containing products on infants younger than 6 months.
- Don't let young children get DEET or picaridin-containing products on their hands or faces.
- Don't use picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under age 3.
- Apply repellent only to exposed areas of skin — not under clothing.
- When you go indoors, wash with soap and water to remove any remaining repellent.
Treat clothing and outdoor gear
Permethrin is an insecticide and insect repellent recommended for use on clothing and outdoor equipment. You apply a permethrin product directly to the clothes and fabric-covered equipment you want to protect. Because many brands of permethrin-based insect repellent are available, check the product label for specific application instructions. Some sporting goods stores sell clothing pretreated with permethrin.
Wear protective clothing
When you're in an area with lots of mosquitoes, wear:
- Long sleeves
- Long pants, possibly tucked into the tops of your socks
- Light colors
- A wide-brimmed hat to help protect your ears and the back of your neck
Reduce mosquitoes around your home
Mosquitoes need standing water to breed. To keep your house and yard free of mosquito pools:
Oct. 24, 2012
- Unclog roof gutters.
- Empty children's wading pools at least once a week, and preferably more often.
- Change water in birdbaths at least weekly.
- Get rid of old tires in your yard.
- Empty outdoor flower pots regularly or store them upside down so that they can't collect water.
- Drain your fire pit if water collects there.
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- Auerbach RS. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2011.
- Simons E. Large local reactions to mosquito bites (skeeter syndrome). http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Sept. 21, 2012.
- Castells MC. Insect bites. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Aug. 3, 2012.
- Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-7234-3541-9..X0001-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-7234-3541-9&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Sept. 24, 2012.
- Kulthanan K, et al. Mosquito allergy: Clinical features and natural course. Journal of Dermatology. 2010;37:1025.
- Questions and Answers: Insect repellent use and safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/insect_repellent.htm. Accessed Oct. 11, 2012.
- Repellents are an important tool to assist people in protecting themselves from mosquito-borne diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/repellentupdates.htm. Accessed Oct. 11, 2012.
- New pesticide fact sheet: Picaridin. Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/chem_search/reg_actions/registration/fs_PC-070705_01-May-05.pdf. Accessed Oct. 1, 2012.