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By Karen Alexander, Oncology Wellness Specialist


Avoid Bug Bites This Summer

Diseases from mosquitos, ticks, and fleas have tripled nationwide, growing from 27,388 reported cases in 2004 to a whopping 96,075 reported cases in 2016, according to the CDC. And unfortunately there are no vaccines or medicines available for most viruses spread by mosquitoes. 

We are right in the middle of mosquito season, and it will continue into the fall months. And though most bug bites are harmless, some spread bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile, dengue, and Zika virus. You can read more about the Zika virus in a previous blog post by clicking here.

It’s important to keep your family safe from these vector-borne diseases. Here are some helpful tips for effectively using insect repellents and preventing bites.

Choose the right repellent:

  • Look for products with Picaridin, DEET (at less than 30 percent) and IR3535 (at 20 percent). 2-Undecanone and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, as well as its synthetic derivative PMD, provide similar protection for a shorter period of time.
  • When choosing and using a repellent, read the label and consider the timespan you will be outdoors.
  • Choose the lowest effective concentration of repellent chemicals, especially when using the repellent on children.
  • Learn more about insect repellents in the EWG’s 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents.  
  • The EPA recently authorized the use of a graphic to help consumers easily identify repellency time for mosquitos and ticks for skin-applied insect repellents:

Cover your skin:

  • Wear pants, socks and long sleeves whenever possible.

Use nets:

  • Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas. Use nets over cribs, strollers and baby carriers.


  • Any bug repellents on children under 6 months old, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD on children younger than 3 years old.
  • More than 30 percent DEET on anyone.
  • Insect repellent on children’s hands, eyes, and mouth. Never use repellent near anyone’s eyes, mouth, nose, ears, underneath clothing, or over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Breathing in aerosol spray repellents. These contain irritant chemicals.
  • Repellents that are mixed with sunscreen. If you reapply the sunscreen every two hours as recommended, you could be overexposed to repellent.
  • Bug zappers and repellent candles as your primary protection, since they cannot provide effective protection.


  • Always follow the guidelines on product labels to avoid overexposure.
  • Keep insect repellents in a safe place away from children to prevent accidents.
  • Remove repellent as soon as you go back inside.

I hope you to continue to enjoy your summer!

Karen Alexander, BSND, MSCN

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