Zika_855x675Here is some timely advice from our very own Dr. Emily Arch on staying safe during your upcoming travels.

Despite the chilly weather, warmer months are almost upon us! Soon we will all be spending more time enjoying the outdoors. As dermatologists, we spend much of our time discussing the virtues of sun protection, but protecting ourselves and our patients from insect bites is incredibly important, particularly with the rise of mosquito-borne viruses like the Zika virus. Insect repellents help to decrease your risk of mosquito and tick bites but not all insect repellents are equally effective.

Consumer Reports recently released the test results and ratings of available insect repellents, reporting that the most effective products against the Aedes mosquito (the vector of several viral illnesses including Zika) were Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula PicaridinNatrapel 8 Hour, and Off! Deepwoods VIII. The former two products contain 20% picaridin, the latter contains 25% DEET. These products protected test subjects from mosquito bites for 8 hours. For those looking for an alternative, Repel Lemon Eucalptus prevented bites for 7 hours. Most of the tested products containing plant oils like citronella and lemongrass lost their efficacy after an hour with many failing to prevent bites completely.

As you prepare for outdoor trips and excursions, below are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • When choosing a DEET-based repellent, remember that concentrations of 30% seem to provide the same protection from bites as higher concentrations. Also higher concentrations can cause rashes and even disorientation.
  • While women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children can safely use DEET, picaridin, and lemon eucalyptus, it is not recommended that DEET is used in infants younger than 2 months, nor should lemon eucalyptus be used in children under the age of 3.
  • Only apply repellents to exposed non-clothed skin.
  • Spray onto hands first and then apply to face (avoiding eyes, mouth, and ears) and avoid use on irritated or open skin. Wash hands before eating or drinking.
  • When using on children, apply to your own hands then apply to the child and wash off once back indoors. Try to avoid applying to children’s hands.