The number of Americans who have contracted life-threatening illnesses from mosquito and tick bites has tripled in recent years — making it more important than ever to protect yourself.
As if these viruses themselves weren’t enough to make you want to prevent bites and infection, the cost of treating each of the respective diseases. West Nile virus has a median estimated cost of $25,117 for treatment, and the associated medical bills could range from $5,385 to $283,381.
And the Zika virus has caused about $117.1 million in direct medical costs, plus $66.3 million in lost productivity.
Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
These also incur significant medical costs. Treating Lyme disease costs a patient about $3,000, on average. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, on the other hand, is less common but just as costly. An outbreak in Arizona from 2002 until 2011 cost billions of dollars.
None of the diseases passed on by mosquitoes or ticks have any vaccines to prevent the onset of infection once you are exposed to the viruses. However, doctors believe raising awareness about preventing bug bites can help reduce the number of cases in the U.S. this summer.
Protection Against Mosquito and Tick Bites
There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself against mosquitoes and ticks.
1. Minimize Your Exposure
The best way to protect yourself against mosquitoes and ticks is to minimize your exposure.
Of course, no one wants to stay indoors all the time but you can stay away from standing water. Change any bird baths or standing water outside your home regularly.
You can also stay clear of heavily wooded areas, which are known to house ticks and mosquitoes both.
2. Cover Up If and When You Go Out
Even though it is hot during the summer, it is important to cover your skin. The more skin you have covered, the less likely you will be bitten.
3. Use Insect Repellent
Any skin that is exposed should be covered with insect repellent. You should also avoid perfumes and heavy deodorants as these products can actually attract mosquitoes and other bugs.
Below are the top five insect repellents, according to Consumer Reports:
- Total Home Woodland Scent Insect Repellent: This has an average price of $6, or $1.17 per ounce.
- Deep Woods Off: One of the more popular choices, this one costs around $6 as well, but costs about $2 per ounce.
- Repel Plant-Based Repellent: Plant-based repellents are great for people with sensitive skin and allergies. This is rated well by consumers and costs $5, or $1.25 per ounce.
- Ben’s Deet Insect & Tick Repellent: This contains 30% Deet (a chemical that some people find hard on their skin) and has an average price of $8, or $1.33 per ounce.
- Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent: This is another pump spray that doesn’t contain Deet. It costs about $8 per bottle or $1.75 per ounce.
4. Check for Bites
If you spend time outside, check yourself for ticks and other bite marks when you get back home.
If you discover a tick and it has burrowed too far under the skin to remove yourself, seek medical attention immediately.
If you discover you have been bitten, keep a close eye on the bite and monitor your health closely. Any problems should be brought to the attention of a medical professional.
Lower-Cost Repellent Methods
If you are looking for a more natural, low-cost way to repel bugs this summer, consider the options below — different tactics work for mosquitoes and ticks.
Taking a vitamin B1 tablet every day will help ward off mosquitoes. The insect can smell the vitamin in your blood and it makes you undesirable.
This might sound gross because it will probably make you smell pretty bad, but garlic helps keep mosquitoes away. Skip your perfumed products and instead rub the juice from a garlic clove on your skin and under your arms.
If you want to keep mosquitoes out of your yard, plant some rosemary. The plant has been known to repel mosquitoes.
Wear Light Clothing
Ticks are harder to keep away than mosquitoes. Regular deep woods insect repellent can help but you’ll also want to wear light-colored clothing — because ticks are more attracted to dark colors.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is also a great tick repellent. If you have some, put it in a spray bottle and apply it liberally to keep ticks at bay.
While these measures might seem like a nuisance, taking these steps is much less annoying than any of the symptoms you might come down with if a virus-carrying bug bites you.
Readers, do you have any insect repellent tips to share? Leave them in the comment section below!
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