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As temperatures heat up and summer thunderstorms arrive, so do the pesky mosquitoes.

They're a natural part of our summer memories but there are ways to prevent mosquitoes from breeding, avoid mosquito bites and treat mosquito bites if you are bitten.

Prevention

Mosquitoes need water to breed and grow. Eliminating standing water around your home is a good way to stop mosquitoes before they can start. Think of unlikely places like clogged rain gutters, empty flower pots, and children's outdoor toys that may catch water. Try to empty bird baths and children's wading pools at least weekly.

If there are areas that can't be drained, it is recommended to purchase Bt biscuits at a local hardware store. The Bt proteins are used in organic farming as an insecticide. It is a bacteria that is naturally found in the soil that kills larvae and is safe to use around birds, pets and humans.

Avoidance

Even if you eliminate the standing water around your home, you'll still spend time in areas where standing water hasn't been eliminated and obviously mosquitoes can fly. To avoid being bitten, there are a few things you and your family can do, such as:

  • Playing outside in the cool of the morning or later in the day. Try to avoid dawn and dusk hours when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wearing lighter colors to stay cool, as mosquitoes are attracted to bright colors and sweat.
  • Covering up exposed skin by wearing long pants, sleeves and a hat will help to avoid bites. However, this is not always a realistic option in the hot, humid months.
  • Using a bug repellent with 30% or less DEET on children over the age of 2 months. Read more in Insect Repellent Types and Safety.

Bug zappers, while fun to watch, are not helpful for eliminating biting female mosquitoes. The female mosquito is attracted to their victims by the victim's scent, chemicals in their sweat and the exhaled carbon dioxide. Other non-biting insects may be attracted to the bug zapper light and actually encourage more insects to visit your backyard.

Treatment

With all of the careful prevention and avoidance, you may still need to treat a mosquito bite.

Mosquito bites are caused by the female mosquito needing protein from blood to produce eggs. They use their mouthpart to pierce the skin and siphon blood. After siphoning blood, the mosquito injects saliva into the skin; it's the saliva that causes the itching and bump reaction.

Children are more likely to have a severe reaction to mosquito bites, because adults have had more bites throughout their lives making them more desensitized to the effects of the mosquito saliva.

Mosquito bites may look like:

  • A small white or red bump with a puncture mark at the center
  • A hard reddish bump or bumps that appear a day after the bite(s)
  • Small blisters
  • Spots that look like bruises

Children or those with a lower tolerance for mosquito bites may also experience low grade fevers, larger swollen red area, hives, and/or swollen lymph nodes.

Contact your doctor if you're experiencing headaches, body aches, fever and if the bite is showing signs of infection. Signs of infection could include: pus or fluid around the bite, sores resembling blisters, pain and swelling around the bite, or if the bite hasn't healed in 10 days.

Take these steps for treating an ordinary mosquito bite.

  • Try not to scratch!
    Scratching opens the skin allowing bacteria to get under the skin which could lead to infection.
  • Wash with soap and cool water.
    This will eliminate bacteria and reduce swelling and the desire to itch.
  • Apply calamine lotion.
    If the itch is annoying, calamine lotion will calm the itch and kill any bacteria.
  • Use an ice pack.
    This will numb the area, reduce swelling and the desire to itch.
  • Take an antihistamine.
    Over-the-counter antihistamine (like Zyrtec, Allegra, Benadryl, etc.) will also reduce the need to itch and scratch.

Mosquitoes are pesky, but with these tips for prevention, avoidance and treatment, your summer doesn't need to be an itchy one.

Margo Anderson-Fowler, MD

Dr. Anderson-Fowler enjoys caring for patients of all ages. She has a special interest in the Mind/Body/Spirit connection for health. She tries to understand her patients' family dynamics and how this may affect their health. She feels a physician should be totally engaged with the patient and see him or her as an individual. She believes every person just wants to be heard so she listens carefully to her patients' concerns and tries to offer them the best care possible so they can reach thei ...

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