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Protecting You & Your Family from Unwanted Mosquitoes

February 23, 2011

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Chad Merrill

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They can quietly attack and spread deadly diseases such as the West Nile virus, yellow fever and malaria, but with a few simple measures, you can prevent mosquitoes from ruining your outdoor fun in the garden this spring and summer.

When you are going to spend long hours in the garden, prepare yourself ahead of time. First, if you plan to be outside for extended time, apply sunscreen first before insect repellent. It`s not recommended to purchase products that combine sunscreen and repellents because sunscreen usually needs reapplied more frequently with greater amounts than are needed to provide protection from biting insects.

You should dress appropriately to avoid mosquito bites, especially at night when mosquitoes are most active. Make sure all exposed skin is covered. This means wearing long-sleeved shirts tucked in to your pants, long pants and a hat. Boots should be worn and pants should be tucked into socks. Once you are dressed for the outdoors, apply repellents containing permethrin to clothing, shoes, tents, mosquito nets and other gear.

Using the correct insect repellent is vital to protecting your skin from mosquito bites. EPA-registered repellents, including products that use DEET and picaridin should be used on all exposed skin. Specifically, DEET concentrations of 30 to 50 -percent are effective for several hours. Picardidin available at 7 and 15- percent concentrations require frequent application.

The general rule of thumb is DEET concentrations of 50- percent are recommended for adults over 18-years old and children older than 2-months old. In order to prevent infants less than two-months old from mosquitoes, use a carrier draped with mosquito netting that has an elastic edge for tight fit.

Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus, PMD and IR3535 or citronella oil are also effective at keeping away mosquitoes. IR3535 is typically found in Skin so Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition. Derived from the lemongrass family, Citronella oil is a safe, non-toxic insect repellent. It can be directly applied to the skin in diluted form or used in candles and lamps to distract mosquitoes over a large area like decks and patios.

Keep in mind never to apply insect repellent to cuts, wounds or irritated skin. Avoid using repellent in your eyes, mouth and only sparingly around ears. Use only enough to cover exposed skin, too much is not effective. If you or your child develops a rash from insect repellent usage, stop using the product, wash it off with mild soap and water and contact your local poison control center or your doctor. A final reminder: Never let children handle the product and never apply repellent to pets. At the end of the day, the repellents need to be washed off clothing.

A few routine steps during the warm season can help keep mosquitoes away. Since they tend to lay eggs in standing or slow-moving water, eliminate puddles. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools regularly and drain water from pool covers. If you have a bird bath, change out the water twice per week and turn over wading pools or wheelbarrows when they are not in use to prevent rain water collection. Also, make sure roof gutters drain properly. Keep the lawn mowed and zap weeds since mosquitoes rest in tall grass, weeds and bushes. Also, make sure window screens don`t have tears or holes where mosquitoes can find their way inside your home.

Following these simple steps by applying the appropriate insect repellent and wearing the appropriate clothing will go a long way in protecting you from mosquitoes scratching annoyances and allow you to take full advantage of the outdoors this spring and summer.

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Story Image: A mosquito lands on a person`s skin. (Source: Alvesgaspar, Wilkimedia Commons)

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