Spending more time outside walking, hiking and enjoying all that San Diego offers is the perfect way to start 2017 living well. But just as important as improving your health is making sure you are also living safely. So the next time you head out on an outdoor adventure remember to take some simple steps to protect yourself from mosquitoes and ticks.
Mosquitoes can carry and transmit vector-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus and the Zika Virus, but there are things that you can do to help reduce the mosquito population and protect your body from receiving unwanted mosquito bites.
- Eliminate mosquito breeding areas around your home. Mosquitoes can breed in a half inch of standing water. Dump standing water in trash cans, old tires, garden equipment, toys and birdbaths weekly.
- Apply an insect repellant that contains either DEET, picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 to exposed skin or on top of clothing. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes and mouth.
- Wear light-colored long sleeve shirts and long pants to cover your skin when outdoors.
- Avoid going outdoors during dawn and dusk hours when mosquitoes are most active and looking to feed.
The San Diego County Environmental Health Department’s Vector Control Program routinely monitors and works to control mosquito populations.
Ticks can carry and transmit vector-borne diseases such as tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. The Vector Control Program routinely collects, identifies and tests ticks for these diseases. Ticks typically crawl up stems of grass or perch on the edges of leaves on the ground with their front legs extended to climb onto a potential passing host.
To protect yourself from ticks while enjoying the outdoors:
- Walk in the center of trails and avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Use repellents that contain DEET on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours.
- Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that might be crawling on you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in the hair.
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats and day packs.
- Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.
- If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed.
- If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks effectively. If the clothes cannot be washed in hot water, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes. The clothes should be warm and completely dry.
With these tips, you can still enjoy the great outdoors and keep yourself and those you love safe.
For more information about the Vector Control Program, please visit sdvector.com.