Today on the Dr. Oz show, we learn about the diseases mosquitoes carry and how to protect ourselves. Mosquitoes are some of those pesky bugs that come out in the summer and they live all over the country, especially near sources of water. While most of the time mosquito bites are just annoying and cause a mild itch, other times mosquitoes can transmit potentially dangerous diseases so it’s important to stay knowledgeable so you know what to look out for. With the cases of Zika on the rise in the past few summers, and experts predicting the disease to reach as many as 50 major cities this summer, everyone is asking, “How can I protect my family?”
The CDC recommends repellents which contain DEET. But, in high doses, DEET can cause rashes, seizures, and disorientation. Is it safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies who are at risk for mosquitoes most disfiguring side effect, Microcephaly. Oz answers the question, “Are the bug sprays I am buying really protecting me?”
Three ingredients are our best weapons of defense: DEET, Picaridin, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Dr. Natalie Azar says DEET is safe for everyone; women who want to get pregnant, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children over the age of 2 months, according to all the medical reports where intense studies were performed by the EPA and CDC. The CDC recommends the repellent contains at least 20% DEET but you can go as low as 15% and higher percentages do not give you any more protection.
Here is a list of the most common mosquito-borne diseases you should know about this summer:
- West Nile Virus. 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus do not have any symptoms at all. The others may develop fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, joint pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, or rash. These symptoms can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications and resolve on their own. However, approximately 1 in 150 people may develop a worse disease that causes inflammation of the brain and nervous system that may even lead to death. If you are experiencing high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, convulsions, stupor, or other serious side effects, it is important to talk to your doctor. The people at highest risk are over the age of 60 and have chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure.
- Malaria. Malaria is a worldwide problem that causes high fevers, chills, sweating, and a flu-like illness. It is a blood parasite and, in some people, it can cause anemia, kidney failure, and death. While some cases of Malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year, the vast majority of them are in people who have traveled to other parts of the world where Malaria is more prevalent.
- Dengue. Dengue is also fairly rare in the continental United States but does occur in Puerto Rico and other tropical and subtropical regions. It presents as a fever and severe headache combination that lasts two to seven days. Somebody infected with dengue may also experience muscle and joint pains and gastrointestinal upset. In severe cases, Dengue develops into dengue hemorrhagic fever, where blood vessels become “leaky”, causing bleeding. If this stage of Dengue is not recognized, it could become fatal.
- Chikungunya. This is similar to dengue and may cause fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and rash. Most people who are infected get symptoms, but the good news is that Chikungunya very rarely becomes severe enough to result in death.
- Zika. Zika has been in the news a lot lately because it seems to be spreading and may be associated with a condition called Microcephaly. Microcephaly occurs when a pregnant woman is infected with Zika and results in the child having a smaller-than-normal head. Despite all of this bad press, most people who get Zika actually don’t have symptoms at all or just have a very mild condition including fever, rash, headache, joint and muscle pain, and red eyes. There is no specific treatment for Zika.
Avoid getting sick by doing these things:
- Buy repellent that contains at least one of the following ingredients: DEET, lemon oil eucalyptus, para-methane-diol, picaridin, or IR3535. Reapply every 2 hrs. and follow the instructions on the label.
- Wear light-colored clothes when outside.
- Check the bug screens on your windows and doors for any holes and patch them.
- If you are pregnant, vacation somewhere that mosquitoes are most likely to not be prevalent.
- Get rid of any type standing water; flower pots, drain pipes, holes, etc.
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