Bug Off!

By: Roger D. Pruitt, DO, FAAP

Mild winters and early springs have its pitfalls. Mosquitoes hibernate in temperatures below 50◦F and are most active at 80◦F and above. More warm days means more time to reproduce! Of the 175 species of mosquitoes in the US, Texas hosts more species (85) than any other state. Likewise, we host 5 of the 7 species of disease causing ticks!

Mosquitoes must have water (less than 1 inch will suffice) to hatch their eggs and only female mosquitoes bite. Besides the irritating reaction to their saliva, mosquitoes can transmit diseases. Most notably in the US are West Nile, Chikungunya and now, Zika. Ticks, on the other hand, are known to transmit approximately 10 different diseases!

Best means to protect yourself includes eliminating free standing water (i.e. maintain septic systems), use of screens on entries into homes, wearing of pants and long sleeves and utilization of safe and effective insect repellents. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends use of products containing DEET (10-30%) or picaridin (5-10%) for those 2 months and older. Application of these products is emphasized over clothing and on exposed skin surfaces with limited use on face (i.e. avoid eyes and mouth.) Repellents using essential oils are known to be safe but are often less effective. Always read the product label, since for example, products using oil of eucalyptus should not be used under 3 years of age. Reapplication of repellents should only occur if mosquitoes start to bite and children must wash off products when returning indoors.

Products containing permethrin (repellent and insecticide) should only be placed on clothing, shoes, camping gear, etc. and not on skin. Permethrin will continue to work even after several washings. Lastly, sunscreens can be used in accordance with insect repellents but should be applied before the repellent.