The threat of mosquito bites seem ever more alarming and dangerous than annoying, what with the looming threat of Zika virus! The World Health Organization (WHO) has just declared the rapid spread of the Zika virus -which is transmitted mainly by mosquitoes – an international public health emergency.

So, what are the strategies for battling this invidious enemy? Well, it appears using a high-quality mosquito repellent is one of the best ways to avoid bites. Let us consider your tools of warfare.

  1. Stay indoors, and ensure to use screens to prevent insects from entering indoors. Dress in long-sleeve and long-pant light-colored clothing when outdoors, apply insect repellent, and remove sources of standing water to prevent mosquito breeding.
  2. When looking for the right repellent, the CDC recommends using EPA-registered products. This is important because the environmental protection agency only registers products that are not expected to cause any adverse affects to human health or to the environment.
  3. As for ingredients, there are two insect repellents that have been approved and recommended by consumer reports. These should contain either 20% picaridan or 25% Deet. These two active ingredients have shown the best efficacy against the Aedes mosquito, which causes Zika Virus.
  4. If you prefer all-natural products, be really careful with what repellent you buy. While all-natural repellents may be helpful, they do not have the same clinical efficacy as some of the chemical based products. There are only two EPA-registered natural oils: catnip oil and oil of citronella.

And when it comes to correct application of repellent, always follow the recommendations appearing on the product label. The CDC recommends the following when using insect repellents:

  1. Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label). Do not apply repellents under your clothing.
  2. Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
  3. Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using repellent sprays, do not spray directly on your face — spray on your hands first and then apply to your face.
  4. Do not allow children to handle or spray the product. When using on children, apply to your own hands first and then put it on the child. Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands because children frequently put their hands in their eyes and mouths.
  5. Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy application does not give you better or longer lasting protection.
  6. After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days.
  7. If you get a rash or other reaction from a repellent, stop using the repellent, wash the repellent off with mild soap and water, and visit the poison control centre at the nearest Teaching or General hospital. If you go to a doctor, it might be helpful to take the repellent with you.