Cover up, spray or go inside: Tips for a bite-free summer

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(Photo by Utah County Department of Health)

(Photo by Utah County Department of Health)

It’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer and mosquitoes are ready to bite. Though the majority of people bitten by mosquitoes only will have to live with a pesky, itchy bite for a few days, mosquitoes in Utah County may carry West Nile virus — a potentially deadly disease. To keep yourself and your family safe and itch-free this summer, learn how to mosquito proof your life (at least as much as possible).

1. Cover up

The best and non-chemical way to prevent mosquito bites when you’re outside is to wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes and socks, according to health officials.

“You have to be aware what time of day it is and how you’re dressed,” said Bob Mower, Utah County’s mosquito abatement director. If you’re out in shorts and a T-shirt when it’s getting dark, you’re a prime mosquito target.

The Mayo Clinic even recommends tucking your pants into your socks when you’re in an area with a lot of mosquitoes buzzing around. It also suggests wearing light colors (mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors) and a wide-brimmed hat to keep your ears and the back of your neck bite-free.

2. Spray yourself

It’s too hot to wear long sleeves, shoes, socks and pants? Then you can slather on the insect repellent.

Mower suggests wearing repellents containing DEET.

The Mayo Clinic also recommends products with picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Products with higher concentrations of DEET and picaridin will last longer than products containing lesser amounts. And sprays with oil of lemon eucalyptus will last about as long as a DEET product with a low concentration.

But you’ve got to be careful when mixing these products and children — the Mayo Clinic says no DEET on babies younger than 6 months, no DEET or picaridin products on young children’s hands or faces, and kids younger than 3 shouldn’t use picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

“Just be aware of your activities,” Mower said. “If you’re going to be outside just make sure you have some repellent.” No one wants to spend summer inside, and with a little precaution, everyone can be pretty safe from mosquito bites.

3. Get rid of that water

Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so health officials say get it out of your yard:

  • Clean out clogged rain gutters and down spouts.
  • Change the water in your birdbath and children’s wading pools at least once a week.
  • Don’t store old tires in your yard.
  • Store empty flower pots upside down or indoors where they won’t accumulate water.
  • Drain your fire pit and anything else that may collect water.
  • Treat your ponds with mosquito killer.

A birdbath can be a breeding ground for thousands of mosquitoes, enough to feed on the whole neighborhood, Mower said. Any water that sits out for a week can be prime habitat for mosquito larvae.

The health department also is doing its part to keep you bite free this summer. It’s already got trucks out treating open bodies of water for larvae and spraying for adult mosquitoes. In a press release, Mower said the county uses “a pyrethrum-based spray that was originally extracted from chrysanthemums, and is very effective but also safe for people and pets.”

In the summer the county will have planes out spraying around Utah Lake, Mower said.

Also, not all mosquitoes are created equal. The ones that carry disease, like West Nile virus, are generally biting from dusk to midnight, Mower said. So cover up, spray yourself or go inside during that time.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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