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Girl spraying insect repellent

Protect Yourself from Mosquito and Tick Bites

This is a guest blog post from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health

The warm temperatures are finally here in Massachusetts, and of course our thoughts turn to spending more time outdoors with friends and family. As we head out the door, though, it’s important to remember to take steps to protect ourselves from ticks and mosquito bites. That’s because ticks and mosquitoes are more than just pests – they can carry diseases which can make us very sick.

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Apply Insect Repellent When Outdoors
    Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535 according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
  •  Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours
  • The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning.
  • Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites
    Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

  • Drain Standing Water
    Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.
  • Install or Repair Screens.
  • Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

Protect Your Animals

  • Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools – especially after heavy rains.
  • Water troughs provide excellent mosquito breeding habitats and should be flushed out at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas.
  • Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. Owners should also speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent WNV and EEE. If an animal is diagnosed with WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to DAR, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by calling 617-983-6800.

Protect Yourself from Tick Bites

 When going outside to an area likely to have ticks:

  • Stick to main pathways and the center of trails when hiking.
  •  Wear a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt with long pants and tuck your pants into your socks. This may be difficult to do when the weather is hot, but it will help keep ticks away from your skin and make it easier to spot a tick on your clothing.
  •  Use bug repellents. Repellents that contain DEET can be used on your exposed skin. Permethrin is a product that can be used on your clothes. Always follow the product instructions and use repellents with no more than 30-35% DEET on adults and 10-15% DEET on children. Never use insect repellents on infants.

  One of the most important things you can do is check yourself for ticks once a day.

  • Favorite places ticks like to go on your body include areas between the toes, back of the knees, groin, armpits, and neck, along the hairline, and behind the ears. Remember to check your children and pets, too. Remove any attached ticks as soon as possible – here’s how: (embed video below)
  •  You should not apply kerosene, petroleum jelly, nail polish, or a hot match tip to remove the tick. These measures are not effective and may result in injury.

If You Get Bit

  • Circle the calendar date and note where on the body the tick was removed. You may want to save the tick for identification.
  •  Your physician may choose to treat you following a deer tick bite. Notify your health care provider if you have been bitten by a deer tick or if you develop a rash or other signs of illness following a tick bite
  •  Talk to your doctor if you develop a rash where you were bitten or experience symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, or sore and aching muscles.

Protect Your Animals

  •  Talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to protect your pets and livestock from ticks.

While avoiding mosquitoes and ticks completely is impossible, taking precautions and knowing what to do about a bite can help keep you safe. By following the steps listed above, you can enjoy your time outside a little more by worrying a lot less this summer.

Do you have any questions about mosquitoes, ticks, or the diseases they carry? Comment below or tweet us, @MassGov or @MassDPH.

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