Zika has been known to exist since 1947, but was long considered to be a minor disease that causes only mild illness. Late last year, Zika became linked to a dramatic increase in Brazil of microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.
The World Health Organization has already deemed Zika virus to be an international public health emergency and has said that the disease may cause a severe public health crisis.
Here in America, the Zika virus has taken many states by storm. The virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (A. aegypti and A. albopictus). These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. These mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near standing water in things like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases.
Mosquitoes prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people. They are aggressive daytime biters, but they can also bite at night. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. To help control mosquitos from biting, you’re going to need protection. Knowing what mosquito repellents to use is the best defense.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people use insect repellents that contain picaridin, DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or IR3535.
The agency also advises that pregnant women, lactating mothers and infants aged 2 months old and above may safely use products that have DEET, picaridin and IR3535. This is provided that users apply the products strictly as directed on the label.
Effective Mosquito Repellents
DEET – The compound was found not toxic to mammals, and in the subsequent use of DEET-based repellents on humans, products were found to be effective with no effects on pregnant mothers or babies.
OLE/PMD – OLE, which stands for oil of lemon eucalyptus, is another compound that has been known to repel mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. Because of the natural base of these products, it is one of the safest for pregnant women and for babies. However, products that contain OLE tends to evaporate more quickly than synthetic products. In response to this, PMD -based products were created. PMD is the synthetic version of OLE, and those products come recommended by the Center for Disease Control.
Picaridin – Picaridin is a highly successful alternative form of repellent that you should look for if you cannot find DEET-based products. If you do not necessarily put your complete faith in OLE-based natural products, then Picaridin has been shown to be one of the most effective mosquito repellents available on the market today.
Unsafe Mosquito Repellents
Sunscreen plus repellent – No doctor recommends that you use any products that combines the functionality of sunscreen and repellent. You should find specialized products for each of these concerns, applying sunscreen to yourself first and then your mosquito repellent. You may have to apply sunscreen more often if you are using DEET based mosquito repellent, as the DEET actually reduces the SPF of the sunscreen.
Permethrin – This particular mosquito repellent is not safe to use on your skin if you are pregnant. However, this very powerful mosquito repellent can be used on clothing, camping gear, shoes and even beds in order to create a barrier around you. Do not ever apply products with this compound under your skin, and do not apply mosquito repellent in general to skin with cuts or bruises.
Safer inspect repellents that work – Consumer Reports
Other Tips for Use with Mosquito Repellent
Even the safest products have some risk associated with them if they are misused. Take the following tips so that you can keep yourself as safe as possible no matter which mosquito repellent you use.
Long sleeves and pants – Keep your skin away from mosquitoes in general. Instead of applying the repellent to your skin, apply it to the outside of your clothing to create a barrier.
Repellent on your face – Using the products listed as safe mosquito repellents on your face is okay; however, make sure that none of the product gets into your eyes or up your nose. Also, check your face for any cuts or bruises that may come from shaving or applying makeup. Keep your chosen mosquito repellent away from any lesions in your skin for best results.