As if itchy red welts weren't frustrating enough, some mosquito bites also have to threaten our health.
On February 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a global health emergency. "At present, the most important protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk individuals, especially pregnant women," the international health agency said in a statement.
To help people follow these instructions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released this at-a-glance mosquito protection guide:
But aside from covering your body with long layers of clothes and bug spray, Norman Ratcliffe, a biomedical research professor at Swansea University, Wales and author of Guide to Rio Olympics: Tips for Staying Safe and Healthy for Olympics, New Year and Carnival, has five more tips for keeping mosquitoes far, far away from you and your family.
1. Aim high.
"When traveling, request a hotel room on the highest floor possible," Ratcliffe says. The reason: "Mosquitoes are not strong fliers and prefer to stay in leafy locations, such as plants and trees, nearer to the ground."
2. Drink — and pee — responsibly.
Beware of restaurant restrooms "as they often contain high numbers of trapped mosquitoes," Ratcliffe says. And if you're enjoying cocktails in the great outdoors, get rid of those empty glasses and bottles ASAP. "The remnants of alcohol can attract mosquitoes."
3. Blow them away.
"If there are trees or plants near the outside of the windows in your home or office, keep the windows shut, especially at dusk when some species come out in droves searching for a tasty meal," Ratcliffe says. That said, the type of mosquito that carries Zika— called Aedes — bites more frequently during the day. "So I also suggest using a fan or air conditioning, which will discourage any mosquitoes from entering your rooms," he adds.
4. Dress light.
Keep your black and brown clothes in the closet. "Darker shades stand out against the light and are attractive to mosquitoes," Ratcliffe explains. Instead, stick to light-colored tops, pants, and dresses, especially when spending longer periods of time outside.
5. Know how to spritz yourself.
Ratcliffe agrees with the CDC's recommendation of applying either a natural insect repellent made of 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus (aka OLE) or a synthetic version of OLE called p-menthane-3,8-diol (aka PMD). "Remember, these sprays can be dabbed on both the clothes and body," he says. He also advises wearing insect-repellent wrist- and ankle-bands for extra protection.