Posts Tagged ‘DEET’

How I Got the Zika Virus and How You Can Too: Protecting Yourself and Your Family

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Aedes aegypti mosquitoToday’s guest post is written by Bethany Kotlar, MPH, of Mother To Baby -Georgia. Her personal experience with the Zika virus is important to share with others.

As a teratology information specialist, I counsel women and their families on medications, chemicals, herbal remedies, and illnesses that could harm developing babies. So as the Zika Virus, a viral infection that can cause severe birth defects including microcephaly (a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected, and may indicate a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy), spread from the Polynesian Islands, to South America, to the Caribbean, I made sure to educate myself on everything we know about the virus, reading article after article and keeping up to date on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) recommendations to avoid infection, knowing that eventually I would need this information to counsel a pregnant woman or her family. I never imagined I would use this information to try to prevent becoming infected myself, and that I would fail.

One week in February I opened an email from my in-laws with the subject “30th Birthday Plan.” My husband’s 30th was a few weeks away, and I was excited to see what they had planned. As I read the email detailing a week-long sailing trip in the Caribbean I felt blessed, and honestly a little scared. I rushed to the CDC’s page on Zika to look up whether the islands we were visiting had outbreaks. Sure enough-16 Caribbean islands, including the two we were visiting, had Zika outbreaks. At first I didn’t want to go, which set off an intense inner debate racked with guilt. “How could I say no to a surprise trip for my husband, especially one planned and paid for by my in-laws?” I thought, and in the next second, “But what if I get Zika? I work with pregnant women, I can’t expose them!” Finally, my Dad stepped in. “You’re too adventurous to let Zika scare you away from a vacation.” he said. “Fine,” I thought, “I’ll go, but I’m going to be careful.”

I was careful. Despite the gentle teasing from my in-laws, I insisted on sleeping indoors with the windows closed, even though it was more comfortable outside. I wore bug spray with 30% DEET when I thought mosquitos would be out. I got three or so bites at dinner one night, and three more at the end of our trip. As we headed home I mentally patted myself on the back; “Only six bites,” I thought, “pretty sure I didn’t get Zika!” I was so sure that three days after our trip when I developed a head-to-toe rash I was certain it was an allergic reaction, but after three doses of Benadryl did nothing, I googled Zika-related rashes. Dead ringer. Symptoms of the Zika Virus include rash, joint and muscle pain, red eye, fever, and headache, and boy did I have them. I rushed in to see an infectious disease doctor, who came to the same conclusion. “My money’s on Zika,” he said. Suddenly everyone wanted a piece of me; my blood was sent to the county board of health, Emory’s lab, and a lab in Washington for testing.

A call from the county board of health confirmed what my aching joints hinted at: I tested positive. My first thought was to thank my lucky stars that I have access to safe, reliable birth control. My second was to start worrying about those around me. I had brunch with a pregnant friend before I had symptoms-could I have given her Zika? Thankfully, the answer is no (more on that below)! I was amazed at how a short vacation and six bites could give me Zika. I thought about all the people going to the Caribbean for vacation. How many of them are pregnant or could become pregnant while traveling? Would they wear bug spray? Would they recognize the symptoms? How many are men who could get Zika and then unknowingly transmit it to their sexual partner? How many people are walking around not knowing they were infected? I called my friend and begged her to wear insect repellant for the rest of her pregnancy.

As of July 27, 2016, 1,658 cases of Zika, including 433 pregnant women have been confirmed in the continental United States; 4 cases of local transmission have been reported in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in Florida. There are likely far more cases since most people don’t have symptoms, so never get tested. Zika is mostly spread through mosquito bites, but can also be spread through sex, blood transfusions, or from a mother to baby during pregnancy. We don’t know how long the incubation period (the time between when you get infected and when you see symptoms) is, but it is likely a few days to weeks. For most people the virus stays in the blood for about a week, but some people still have the virus in their bodies for as long as two months. Currently, the only Zika outbreak in the continental United States is in a small area of Dade County, Florida, however, the mosquitoes that can carry Zika are found in some areas of the US, making a Zika outbreak in the U.S. very possible. You can follow these steps to protect yourself:

1.  If you are pregnant or could be pregnant (planning a pregnancy or not using birth control), don’t travel to a country with an active Zika outbreak. You can find a list of current outbreaks here.

2.  If your partner has traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and you are pregnant, use condoms correctly every time you have sex for the rest of your pregnancy. Why, you might ask? Because Zika can stay in semen longer than in blood, but we don’t know exactly how long it stays there. To be as safe as possible, the CDC recommends using condoms for 6 months.

3.  If your partner has traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and has symptoms of Zika (rash, fever, headache, joint pain, and conjunctivitis) use condoms correctly whenever you have sex and avoid pregnancy for at least six months. If he does not have symptoms, use condoms and avoid pregnancy for at least two months.

4.  If you have traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and you are not pregnant, avoid pregnancy for at least two months. The Zika virus can also be transmitted from a woman to her sexual partner. Because of this, use condoms and/or a dental dam when you have sex for two months. Do not share sex toys.

5.  If you are currently pregnant, avoid mosquito bites as much as possible by wearing bug spray outdoors (bug spray with at least 30% DEET is preferable; for information on the safety of DEET during pregnancy, see here), wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, closing windows or using windows with screens, and removing any standing water from around your house. Two things to remember: the mosquitos that spread Zika are daytime biters and like to be indoors, and they can breed in pools as small as a bottle-cap.

MTB-headshot_BethanyKotlarIf you have questions about the Zika virus or you have been infected or exposed and want free up-to-date information about what this could mean for a current or future pregnancy, you can contact a MotherToBaby expert by phone at (866) 626-6847, by text at (855) 999-3525, or by live chat or email by visiting www.mothertobaby.org.

Bethany

You can also send your questions to the March of Dimes at AskUs@marchofdimes.org and view our web article on Zika. Thanks again to Bethany for sharing her story.

Note: since the writing of this blog post, more cases of Zika have been reported in Florida. The CDC website has updated, detailed information.

 

The lowdown on insect repellants

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Zika - bug sprayProtecting yourself from mosquito bites is key in avoiding exposure to the Zika virus. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Use an insect repellant (bug spray or lotion) that is EPA registered.
  • Products containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol and IR3535, are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • If you use a product containing DEET, make sure it has at least 20% DEET, and always follow the instructions on the product label.
  • Most bug sprays and lotions are safe to use on babies 2 months and older. However, DO NOT USE PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN OIL OF LEMON EUCALPTUS OR PARA-MENTHANE-DIOL ON CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 3 YEARS OF AGE.
  • Do not put bug spray or lotion on under clothing.
  • If you are using sunscreen, too, put it on first, before you use bug spray or lotion.

If you have recently traveled to a Zika-affected area, use bug spray or lotion for 3 weeks after you get back. This way, if you are bitten by a mosquito, it will not become infected with the Zika virus and spread it to other people.

Learn ways to #ZAPzika in our article: how to stay safe, how it can affect a baby during pregnancy, and what to do if you think you may have been exposed.

Have questions?  Send them to our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Protect yourself from mosquitoes

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Zika - bug sprayThe most common way for Zika to spread is through the bite of an infected mosquito. So the best way to protect yourself is to avoid mosquito bites. While Zika is currently not being transmitted in the US, it’s still a good idea to know how to keep you and your family safe.

Use insect repellant

The best way to protect yourself against mosquito bites is to use insect repellant. Here are a few things to look for when choosing a spray or lotion:

  • Use one that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All EPA-registered bug sprays and lotions are checked to make sure they’re safe and effective.
  • Use products that contain:
    • DEET
    • picaridin
    • oil of lemon eucalyptus
  • When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Most repellants are safe to use on babies 2 months and older, but check with your baby’s health care provider.  Do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus on children 3 years or younger.
  • Do not wear insect repellant under clothes.
  • Put on sunscreen first before any bug spray.

If you’ve been in a Zika-affected area, use insect repellant for 3 weeks after you return, even if you do not feel sick. This will help to prevent Zika from spreading to others.

Wear the right clothing

  • Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes and socks. Ankles and necks are especially vulnerable to mosquito bites so make sure they are protected.
  • If hiking or camping, wear permethrin-treated clothes. Do not use permethrin on skin.
  • If you are pregnant or trying to conceive and you work outside, talk to your employer about working inside. If that’s not possible, make sure your clothes protect and cover your skin.

Keep your environment safe

  • Take steps to keep mosquitoes outside and to prevent them from breeding.
  • Remove any standing water.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning.
  • Make sure that screens on doors or windows are intact and do not have any holes.
  • Use mosquito netting across the top of your baby’s stroller or crib to help keep your baby safe from mosquitoes. Keep the netting out of reach of your baby and make sure it doesn’t touch your baby’s face or body.

Learn more about Zika on our website. Questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Time for sunshine and flowers… and bugs

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

flowersPesticides are chemicals used to kill or keep away insects and rodents. You can use some pesticides in your home. Others are for use only outside or on crops. With the warmer weather finally upon us, we get to enjoy flowers blooming, grass growing, and all those pests that also enjoy the springtime weather. So is it a good idea to use pesticides to get rid of these critters?

In her book, Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby, Dr. Siobhan Dolan states that “We don’t know for sure what effect pesticides have on an unborn baby. In some studies, high-level exposure appears to increase risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birthweight, birth defects, and learning problems. Although pesticide use is regulated by the federal government, there is a lack of agreement over pesticides’ safety.”

If you are pregnant, it makes sense to avoid pesticides whenever possible.

If you need pest or rodent control in your home:
• Try to use traps, like mousetraps,  instead of pesticides. Be careful not to set traps in places where children can get to them. Stay away from rodents and have someone else empty the trap.
• Have someone else put the pesticide in your home. Ask them to follow the directions on the product label.
• Put food, dishes and utensils away before using the pesticide.
• If you need to use it, have someone open the windows to air out your home and wash off all surfaces where food is made after using the pesticide

If you use pesticides outside your home:
• Close all the windows and turn off the air conditioning. This helps keep pesticides in the air from coming into the home.
• Wear rubber gloves when gardening to avoid touching pesticides.
• And as tempting as it might be, try to avoid walking barefoot in the grass.

In certain areas, you may need to consider using an insect repellant. Insect repellants are products you put on your skin or clothes to help keep insects, like mosquitoes and ticks, away. This helps prevent insect bites.

Many insect repellants contain DEET (diethyltoluamide).  According to Dr. Dolan, “Recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control don’t tell pregnant women to avoid DEET. But it’s reasonable to stay away from it if you possibly can, unless you’re in a situation in which using it makes more sense than not using it. For example, if you’re camping in an area that’s crawling with ticks or buzzing with mosquitoes, applying insect repellent makes a lot of sense. In that situation, the risk of getting Lyme disease or West Nile virus, which can be harmful to you and your baby, outweighs any theoretical risk that might be posed by the insect repellent.”

You also can prevent bites by staying indoors in the early morning or late afternoon when mosquitoes are most likely to bite. Wearing long pants and long sleeves when going outdoors helps, too.

West Nile virus on the rise

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

mosquitoWest Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious illness. It is a seasonal epidemic in North America that flares up in the summer and continues into the fall. Right now it’s raging and health officials at the CDC last week said that there have been 1,118 cases of the disease reported across 38 states, including 41 deaths.

Texas accounts for about half of the cases in the entire country. Researchers believe that this summer’s extremely hot weather following a particularly mild winter is what has led to the largest outbreak ever seen. While Texas is the most heavily affected state, WNV is in every state this year except Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont.
 
The virus is transmitted by mosquitos and is carried by birds. The best way to prevent West Nile virus is to stop mosquito bites. Many municipalities are spraying pesticides in the air. It is recommended that individuals who will be outside where mosquitos may exist should use a bug repellent containing DEET. Stay indoors during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most likely to bite, and wear long clothes. Use mosquito netting over baby carriers and strollers and be sure to repair any broken window or door screens.

Pregnant women may be concerned about the safety of insect repellants during pregnancy. The insect repellant DEET (diethyltoluamide) is among the most effective at keeping insects, such as mosquitoes and ticks, from biting. Preventing insect bites is important during pregnancy because mosquito- and tick-borne infections, such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease, erlichiosis and babesiosis may be harmful in pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend any special precautions for pregnant women using DEET-containing products, when used as directed on the product label.

For more information about West Nile virus, read this information from the CDC.

Bug spray

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Yippie, the weather is gorgeous and we can all go outside again!  While you’re thinking this, so are the mosquitoes and other irritating critters.  So, how much bug spray, if any, should  you use on your little tike?

Most of us have heard that DEET works best at keeping bugs at bay.  However, according to the FDA, we should not use products with permethrin or DEET in them on children less than 2 months old. There are some safe products that don’t have DEET and contain citronella, so look around.  Unfortunately, they are not as effective as products containing DEET and need to be reapplied periodically.  Products with oil of eucalyptus in them should not be used on children under three years old.   With any of these products, do not use it on sunburned skin, cuts, rashes, or other skin conditions, avoid the area around the eyes and forget the hands (they’ll be in the mouth most of the time).    If you use bug spray on your clothes, wash them before wearing them again.

Some sunscreens have DEET mixed in – they’re 2-for-1 products.  They’re great for short-term activity, but for long-term outdoor exposures, you won’t want to reapply them because the repeated application may increase the risk of toxic exposure.  Add a sunscreen by itself later.

There are other things you can do, besides using bug spray, to help keep those nippy bugs away.  Put long-sleeved shirts and long pants on the kids.  There are some great lightweight clothes in the stores these days.  Be sure to keep something on their feet so the mosquitoes don’t bite and the bees don’t sting.  If you’re little one has a baldy bean, don’t forget a hat.  Avoid using scented lotions that can attract unwanted attention.  Shake out the tire swing so there is no standing water in it where mosquitoes can breed.  Keep the kid’s wading pool empty and on it’s side when not in use.

Once everyone is tuckered out and ready for a nap, wash away all applied products with soap and water.  And, depending on where you live, don’t forget to check for ticks!