Preventing Insect-Borne Diseases

Always use pesticides and insect repellents as directed on the label.

Stinging insects like mosquitoes, bees, wasps, and other critters like ticks and spiders love the warmer months as much as we do! Most insect stings or "bites" can cause red, itchy, or sometimes painful bumps, but venomous species can cause more severe reactions. In addition, allergies to bites and stings can be very dangerous.  Finally, there are several infectious diseases that people can get from insects, especially mosquitoes, such as the Zika virus.  Diseases that can be spread from animals (including insects) to humans are called zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses (zoonosis, singular).

According to the CDC, other insect zoonoses of note include:

  • Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which you can get from a tick bite.
  • West Nile virus, which you can get from a mosquito bite.
  • Dengue, malaria, and chikungunya, which you can get if you travel to areas where these diseases are common, such as the Caribbean, and are bitten by an infected mosquito.

Take note that some people are more at risk than others. Plan to take special steps to protect people from the groups below. They are more likely than others to get really sick and even die of zoonotic diseases. These include:

  • Children under the age of 5 years
  • Pregnant women
  • Adults over the age of 65 years
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system – for example, someone with HIV or a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy

Using Insect Repellent Safely

How to prevent insect bites and stings: Following all directions on the label, apply insect repellent whenever you spend time outdoors, especially during the warmer months.  Concentrations of up to 30% DEET have been shown to be safe for use on children older than 2 months, but be sure to follow application instructions carefully. Only use bug spray that is meant to be used on skin; never use household insect or pest killer on the skin. Be sure to follow application instructions carefully, and wash off the product once returning indoors. If anyone ingests, inhales, or sprays insect repellent into the eyes, call Poison Help at 1 (800) 222-1222 immediately. If you have general questions about selecting, storing, or using insect repellent and other pesticides, call or visit the National Pesticide Information Center’s website. Also, consider planting pest-repellant plants to help prevent these bites and stings. Consult a master gardener or the National Pesticide Information Center for advice.

In addition to using insect repellent properly and wearing long sleeved clothing and full-length pants, to help prevent mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, get rid of any standing water in the area outside around your home where mosquitoes can breed. Check buckets, flower pots, old tires, and even litter. For more tips on how to prevent Zika, specifically, click here.  

Related:

Press Release:  Nation’s Poison Centers Provide Assistance Combating Zika Virus Concerns (August 12, 2016)

AAPCC's Summer Poison Safety page

Find Your Local Poison Center

Poison centers offer free, private, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach your local poison center by calling 1-800-222-1222.

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