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Ouch! It's mosquito time

Carter Geigerich, Press Staff Writer • Jul 21, 2014 at 11:11 AM

There are some things no summer is complete without. For some people, it’s family trips to the pool, or day hikes in the Smokies. Some families can’t call summer complete until they’ve gotten their barbecue fix in the backyard. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that almost everyone can count on during the summer months — mosquito bites.

The ubiquitous little pests are almost impossible to get away from this time of year. While the risk of infection from the deadly diseases mosquitoes can carry is quite low for most people in East Tennessee, the insects can still prove to be quite a nuisance and leave a mark long after summertime is over.

According to Dr. Leigh Johnson at ETSU Family Medicine Associates, the only surefire way to avoid bites is by staying indoors during mosquitoes’ active hours.

“Dusk to dawn is really when they’re the most active,” said Johnson. “Early in the morning and when the sun starts to go down. Those are the times you want to arrange to protect yourself. They’re not in such high concentrations toward the middle of the day.”

If you can’t avoid going outside during these peak hours, Johnson recommends using a powerful insect repellent, ideally containing the bug repellent DEET.

“If you’re going to use a mosquito repellent, the most-effective ones contain DEET. It’s found in most of the common insect repellents you find in stores,” says Johnson. She says there are alternatives, including permethrin, which is applied to clothes and shoes rather than skin, and eucalyptus oil, the active ingredient in many natural and organic bug-repellent products.

Mosquitoes can carry a host of nasty diseases with them, though many of these illnesses are of no concern to people living in the United States. Malaria, dengue and yellow fever have all been eradicated in this country, and cases of West Nile Virus remain exceedingly rare in Tennessee. Last year, there were only 24 documented cases of West Nile in the state. That being said, it is not impossible and steps should be taken to monitor for symptoms of the deadly virus if repeated, lengthy exposure to mosquitoes is unavoidable.

According to Johnson, it may be appropriate to contact a medical professional if extreme redness or pain manifests itself on or near a mosquito bite, or signs of a skin infection begin to appear in areas where you have suffered a lot of bites. Fever, nausea and fatigue following exposure to large concentrations of mosquitoes are also signs it may be time to give the doctor a visit.

While it is unlikely West Nile is the culprit, infections of all sorts can arise from bites. Johnson says that anytime something breaks the skin, there is a risk of infection. When someone suffers from dozens of mosquito bites in an afternoon at the park, that risk rises significantly.

Mosquitoes are an unavoidable part of the summer months, and we can expect to see them buzzing about well into September. While your odds of catching a deadly illness from one of these flying pests is very low, nobody likes itchy legs, and with a bit of simple preparedness, it’s easy to stay bite-free.

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