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How to Keep Bugs From Bugging You

Does your picnic turn into a swat-fest? Is your fishing trip a mosquito-infested nightmare? Then brace yourself for summer's sting.

Although most insects are just nuisances, some can threaten our health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that mosquitoes and ticks can be two of the most dangerous pests. Mosquitoes worldwide transmit diseases from malaria to dengue fever---two tropical illnesses that can show up in the United States because of changing travel and weather patterns. Mosquitoes also spread West Nile virus, which can become life-threatening in the elderly and chronically ill. And some ticks transmit Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

A single mosquito bite is no reason to panic. On the other hand, an infestation of cockroaches or fire ants is a serious problem. The first step is to find out what kind of bug is bugging you. Sometimes the solution involves using a pesticide. Other times, pesticides are either unnecessary or inappropriate. Take care with pesticides: pick the right one and follow the directions. Contact your state cooperative extension service to find reliable information.

Mosquitoes

These insects can transmit diseases ranging from malaria to West Nile virus, but most mosquitoes don't. Cases of West Nile virus have been reported in all areas of the United States and in Canada.

Dump standing water from old tires, flowerpots or birdbaths to eliminate breeding spots. Avoid exposure at twilight, when mosquitoes are most active.

Spray skin with a repellent containing DEET or Picaridin (KBR 3023).

Clothing can be sprayed with permethrin. Using a combination of DEET and permethrin works well. Follow directions with care. The CDC says an effective repellent will contain 30 to 50 percent DEET. Levels higher than 50 percent work no better.

Ticks

If you're in dense brush, woods or fields from April through September, use tick repellent (DEET applied to the skin and clothing, along with permethrin applied to the clothes only) and wear long shirts and pants that fit tightly around wrists, waist and ankles. Check yourself at least twice daily; if you find a tick embedded in your skin, remove it with tweezers or with fingers covered with tissue paper, then wash your hands. Don't remove it with heat or other methods. Ticks carry many diseases, with Lyme disease the most widely known.

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