With the warm weather come those pesky mosquitoes. Beyond the insatiable itch a mosquito bite can leave you with, it can have much more serious health implications.

“Mosquitoes are frequently ranked as the most dangerous animals on Earth due to their ability to spread diseases from person-to-person around the world,” said Anja Landis, MD, a family medicine doctor at Geisinger Kistler Clinic in Wilkes-Barre. “Itchy bug bites are the least of the concern when it comes to mosquitoes.”

Most recently, mosquitoes have captured headlines by spreading Zika virus, but that’s not the only disease they’re credited with spreading. Here in Pennsylvania, they have also been linked to transmitting West Nile virus, though only rarely and sporadically. And be aware if traveling—mosquitos have also been linked to spreading malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever in other areas of the world.

“What happens is a mosquito bites an infected person or animal and obtains their virus or parasite. Then, the mosquito transfers that virus or parasite to the next person it bites through its saliva,” Dr. Landis explained.

Because mosquitos can transmit serious, even fatal, illnesses, it’s crucial to be vigilant in protecting yourself from their bites. Here’s how:

1. Limit your exposure to mosquitoes

Believe it or not, but there are ways you can avoid mosquitoes.

“Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn when the air is calm – avoid activities outside during this time,” Dr. Landis said.

Keep mosquitoes out of your home by using air conditioning or by repairing any tears in windows and doors screens – if you’re going camping, repair tears in your camping gear, too.

Additionally, use mosquito netting on strollers and cribs when you take your little ones outside.

2. Use insect repellent


“The most effective insect repellents include DEET, icaridin or picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus,” Dr. Landis said. “Repellents that include one of these active ingredients temporarily repel mosquitos as well as ticks.”

If you plan on spending a good amount of time outside, repellents containing DEET may protect you longer.

“When it comes to young children, don’t let them get DEET or icaridin-containing repellents on their hands or faces. And don’t use DEET on infants younger than 2 months old,” Dr. Landis advised.

3. Treat clothing or use protective clothing and gear

“For additional mosquito protection, you can use permethrin on clothing and outdoor gear – it’s an insecticide and insect repellent, but it’s not to be used directly on skin,” Dr. Landis said.

When the weather permits, you can also dress to protect yourself from mosquito bites, even if the clothes aren’t treated.

“Wearing light-colored long sleeves, long pants, socks and closed-toe shoes can protect your skin from bug bites,” Dr. Landis said. “Similarly, a hat can protect your ears and neck from bites too.”

4. Reduce mosquitoes around your home and yard

“Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” Dr. Landis said. “Eliminating potential breeding grounds around your home can reduce the number of mosquitoes able to bite you and your family.”

Do this by regularly emptying outdoor flower pots or storing them upside down so they can’t collect water. If you have a fire pit that tends to collect water, drain it regularly too.

If you have a wading pool set up in your yard for your kids this summer, empty it at least once a week, if not more frequently. Similarly, change the water in birdbaths every week. Make sure your roof gutters aren’t clogged – water can collect there too.