With the Zika virus breaking out across Latin America, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t have mosquitos on our mind. The virus is transmitted by mosquito bite and has devastating consequences for pregnant women and their developing babies. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are strongly urging pregnant women not to travel to countries where Zika is currently an issue. For others? Here are our top practical tips for keeping yourself – and your growing baby – safe when spring and summer finally hit.
What is it about pregnant women?
There are all kinds of factors at play when it comes to why mosquitoes prefer some people over others. Sometimes it’s because of blood type (the pests like type O more than A or B), sometimes it has to do with how much carbon dioxide you breathe out, sometimes it’s the type of bacteria on your skin and sometimes it’s because you just drank a bottle of beer (for some reason they like it). Clothing color and genetics can also play a role. But what is it about pregnant women that may get these bloodsuckers in a frenzy?
Several studies have found that pregnant women are likely to attract twice as many mosquito bites than others. This is likely because pregnant women exhale about 21 percent more carbon dioxide than people who aren’t pregnant. This probably has to do with the fact that pregnant women are breathing harder than they usually do when they’re carrying extra weight around. Pregnant women are also about 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, on average, than women who aren’t pregnant, and warm body temperatures are a cue for mosquitoes to land and bite. The extra body heat can also release more volatile substances from the skin, which can make pregnant women more easily detected by mosquitoes.
What can you do?
Zika virus or not, it’s always a good idea to protect yourself from insects, and twice as important if you’re getting ready for baby. Here are some tips for keeping the bugs at bay.
- Choose clothing color wisely. Mosquitos that bite during the day prefer dark clothing, while those out at night prefer colors that make you stand out, like red. Plan your outfit carefully if you’ll be outside in an area that you think might be popular for mosquitoes.
- Cover up. Don’t put yourself at risk by wearing a sleeveless shirt, shorts or a short skirt when mosquitoes are around. Cover up with sleeves and pants if possible. Keep in mind that tight clothing might not be the best defense, since mosquitoes can bite right through it. Clothes with a looser fit will work better.
- Use repellents in the surrounding area. If you’re hanging around outside for long periods of time, like at a backyard party, surround the area with products that deter mosquitoes. Citronella candles, tiki torches and even smoke from a fire pit can help. There are many mosquito-repelling products that you can find at hardware stores or outdoor adventure gear shops.
- Apply insect repellent to yourself. Choose a bug repellent that’s been tested and registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If it’s been registered, there should be a registration number listed above the ingredients. Products that have DEET should be effective and safe for pregnant women in reasonable amounts, but you may want to talk to your health care provider for recommendations. Once your baby’s born, repellents that contain DEET should generally be avoided – talk to your child’s pediatrician for more information.