With every corner of the U.S. seemingly breaking out in a heat wave, concerns about the Zika virus are traveling fast.
While this mosquito-transmitted virus may be mild for most, for pregnant women Zika carries the potential of serious birth defects for their developing babies. Currently, the reported cases in the United States can all be traced back to countries experiencing outbreaks of the virus (see their updated list here). However, experts agree that it’s time to step up our insect control efforts here in the U.S.
Luckily, there are a number of small, impactful steps you can take to protect yourself this summer. The simplest? Applying an insect repellent.
Doing so seems pretty simple. However, many people make mistakes when applying bug spray—mistakes that can minimize their level of protection. Eugene Zablotsky, a member of the New York Entomology Society and Mosquito Control Association has a few simple steps to make sure you apply it correctly:
Read the label
Not all sprays are for all insects. The CDC recommends that to prevent mosquito bites you should use repellents that contain picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. If you’re trying to repel both mosquitoes and ticks, use products that contain at least 20 percent DEET. Check with the CDC for all approved sprays.
If using sunscreen, put it on first. The CDC advises that you apply your sunscreen before using insect repellent, whether it’s spray or cream. The CDC also cautions against using combination bug repellent/sunscreen products because sunscreen must usually be applied more often than insect repellent.
More is better
Apply insect repellent thoroughly. Many people make the mistake of not using enough insect repellent. Keep the chemicals away from your eyes and nose, but make sure you cover every inch of exposed skin; mosquitoes and other insects will find any area you leave unprotected.
Timing is everything
Use insect repellent any time mosquitoes and other bugs are likely to be present; not just during camping trips and barbecues. Use bug repellent any time you’re walking in tall grass, on leaves, and during dusk and dawn. These are the times when insects such as mosquitoes are most likely to be around.
By properly applying insect repellent, you can help protect yourself against bug bites this summer and help ensure you and your developing baby stay safe.
— Eugene Zabolotsky is a member of American Mosquito Control Association and New York Entomology Society and the founder and Managing Director of MediPharm, a health care consulting firm. Since 2003, MediPharm has provided commercial and business development strategy expertise to multinational biopharmaceutical companies, medical device companies and health care institutions.