Buzzing in your ear

woman applying mosquito spray

Buzzing. Bothering. Biting. Not many folks like mosquitoes. If you ever met anyone who said mosquitoes were great, that person was probably lying.

These tiny insects have a way of making outdoor activities less enjoyable here in Wisconsin during the spring, summer, and fall.

Even with bats each eating 6,000–8,000 insects every night, and birds and spiders eating many more, there are still plenty of mosquitoes to get after you. Mosquito bites cause an allergic reaction, which itches. And the discomfort doesn’t stop there. In addition to being annoying, did you know mosquitoes can also be dangerous to your health?

Dangers

Mosquito bites can make you itch. Sometimes the itching is maddening. But the itching isn’t dangerous. What can be dangerous are the viruses mosquitoes can carry that make you sick, even in the United States. Some can carry dengue, zika, or chikungunya, while others can carry West Nile virus.

Dengue virus is a risk in the tropics and subtropics, including Puerto Rico and Central America. It causes flu-like illness and a rash. There is no specific treatment for this virus. Read more in our Wellness section.

Zika virus is found in many areas of the United States. This virus can cause birth defects in babies born to women infected during pregnancy. Symptoms may include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain. Read more in our Wellness section.

Chikungunya virus has been reported in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This infection can cause fever and severe joint pain. There is no vaccine to prevent this disease, nor any medicine to treat it. Read more in our Wellness section.

West Nile virus is the leading mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. There are no vaccines to prevent it nor medications to treat it once you’re infected. Most people infected do not feel sick. About one in five people infected with West Nile develop a fever and other symptoms. Sometimes, West Nile can also cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can cause confusion, fever, bad headache, and a stiff neck. Encephalitis requires a doctor visit right away. Read more in our Wellness section.

Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following tips for preventing mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellent. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Always follow instructions when applying insect repellent. The repellent should have one of the following active ingredients:
    • DEET
    • Picaridin
    • IR3535
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
    • Para-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD)
    • 2-undecanone
  • Cover up. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Cover a crib, stroller, or baby carriage with mosquito netting.
  • Keep mosquitoes outside. Use air conditioning or window and door screens. Repair any holes your screens may have.
  • Remove mosquito habitats. Eliminate standing water in rain gutters, old tires, buckets, plastic covers, toys, and other containers where mosquitoes can breed.

When you head outside, especially at dawn and dusk, make sure to keep these prevention tips in mind to help prevent mosquito bites. You can help avoid the itch and maybe even keep yourself from catching a bug-borne virus. For more information on mosquitoes, check out the American Mosquito Control Association’s website. Now where did I put that mosquito spray?

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