Courtesy of SGV Mosquito and Vector Control District
Courtesy of SGV Mosquito and Vector Control District

Preventing Pesky Mosquitoes This Summer

by Micaela Ricaforte '20

While enjoying outdoor barbecues and beach trips this summer, beware uninvited guests: mosquitoes. As the season reaches its peak, the summer heat brings a wave of these bothersome insects. The warm weather generates a speedier life cycle, causing more eggs to be laid and hatched.

While local California mosquitoes are mostly harmless, a growing number of invasive Aedes mosquitoes can be found in more than 130 cities across the state. The black-and-white Aedes mosquitoes are smaller than a fingernail, and efficient in carrying several human arboviruses such as chikungunya, dengue fever, yellow fever, and Zika.

“Most people think that we don’t have a mosquito problem in the San Gabriel Valley, but we actually do,” said Levy Sun, public information officer for the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District. “The Culex mosquitoes, which are native to the San Gabriel Valley, mostly bite birds instead of humans. However, the Aedes mosquitoes thrive in our cities and are active when people are active, so they bite during the day.”

Sun offered some tips for keeping those pesky blood-suckers away from your pool parties. “First, the Culex mosquitoes and the birds they bite can still carry West Nile virus, so no matter how cute they are, avoid feeding wildlife,” Sun said. “Second, get rid of stagnant water inside and around the home at least once a week. Because the small Aedes mosquitoes have adapted to our lifestyle, they can lay eggs in pools of water the size of a bottle cap.”

Still getting bit? Sun also offered suggestions for protecting your body from bites. “Look for insect repellent with oil of lemon and eucalyptus on the bottle. It’s plant-based and very effective against mosquitoes. Other ingredients we recommend are DEET and Picaridin,” he said.

Todd Emerson, DO, medical director of APU’s Health Center, gave suggestions on how to treat a mosquito bite. “Once there is a bite, use antihistamines and topical hydrocortisone, which will help control itching and lessen the risk of skin breakdown and consequent bacterial infection,” Emerson said. “Sometimes a local reaction ranging from 2 to 10 centimeters occurs after a bite, so using antihistamines and hydrocortisone is fine. If a large reaction happens a couple of days after the bite, then it should be assessed by a medical provider to ensure it’s not a bacterial infection.”

School of Nursing professor Patricia Hanes, PhD, MSN, MAED, MS-DPEM, RN, who specializes in disaster preparedness and emergency management, shared some insight into how to keep the whole family safe from mosquitoes. “First, protect yourself and your children, especially when traveling. Wear long sleeves when possible,” Hanes said. “Apply insect repellent to your hands first and then to your face, avoiding your eyes, nose, and mouth, and do the same for children—they need your help and shouldn’t put it on themselves. If you’re wearing sunscreen, make sure you apply that first, wait at least 15 minutes, then apply insect repellent—and don’t wear insect repellent under clothing.”

As for the home, Hanes recommends blocking places where mosquitoes can easily enter. “Fix screens, tightly cover water storage containers like rain barrels, and seal septic systems,” Hanes said. “Spray insecticides in dark, humid places. Notify the Los Angeles Department of Public Health if you see mosquitoes, especially during the daytime.”

“The most important thing to remember is that each person can stop the mosquitoes out there,” Sun said. “Mosquito control is a shared responsibility with residents. Together, we can keep the San Gabriel Valley safe.”

To learn more, visit SGV Mosquito and Vector Control.

Additional information:

California Department of Public Health

Guide to Important Mosquitoes in California

Your Guide to Insect Repellents

Micaela Ricaforte is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a double major in journalism and honors humanities.