How to Reduce the Risk of Tick and Mosquito-Borne Illnesses and Still Enjoy the Great Outdoors

How to Reduce the Risk of Tick and Mosquito-Borne Illnesses and Still Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Warmer weather means more time enjoying the outdoors – an activity that has many proven benefits! Sadly, it also means greater exposure to biting insects that, depending on your area, can carry bacteria, viruses or parasites that cause chronic illness in susceptible individuals. Developing a safe and effective strategy that allows us to continue reaping the benefits of being outside, while minimizing the risks, is vitally important.

What are the risks with mosquito and tick bites?

Mosquitoes and ticks can become infected with virus, bacteria or parasite when they bite an infected animal, and they can then spread those infections to humans with future bites.

With ticks, you may never know you’ve been bitten since tick saliva has anesthetic properties and ticks will simply drop off after they’ve fed. Not all individuals develop a telltale “bullseye” rash. Risk for acquiring Lyme Disease and other diseases increases the longer the tick remains on a host to feed so it is important to remove a tick as soon as you see one. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another tick-transmitted disease, as are Bartonella, Babesia, and Erhlichiosis.

Mosquitoes are similar in that they spread disease through bites. Some diseases transmitted by mosquitoes include ZikaWest Nile VirusDengueChikungunya, and Malaria.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, if you experience any of the following symptoms after any kind of bug bite, go the emergency room immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • The sensation that your throat is closing

  • Swollen lips, tongue or face

  • Chest pain

  • A racing heartbeat that lasts more than a few minutes

  • Dizziness

  • Vomiting

  • Headache

  • A red, donut-shaped or target-shaped rash that develops after a tick bite (Lyme)

  • A fever with a red or black, spotty rash that spreads (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever)

If you have traveled to an area at risk for mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika or Chikungunya and have symptoms such as fever, rash, headache, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle pain, mild bleeding, or eye pain, even if you don’t recall being bitten, contact your practitioner. This is especially important if your pregnant.

In addition to transmission by mosquitoes, Zika can be sexually transmitted. The CDC website has information on the transmission and prevention of Zika.