Pregnant women around the world are on alert and many are overwhelmed by the more recent news regarding the Zika virus. Spread by the bite of a mosquito, its symptoms commonly include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, however, in May 2015, Zika was linked to birth defects. Although much is unknown, there is a possibility that the Zika virus causes microcephaly – a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. Doctors in northern Brazil noticed a surge in babies with the condition in October and are worried there is a connection.
As a result, any pregnant women, or women trying to conceive, have been told to take caution, particularly when travelling to tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world.
Here are 24 safe and effective ways to prevent mosquito bites while pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Avoid mosquitos: A simple and straightforward tip. Mosquitos are typically active from dawn and dusk so keep inside during this time and keep doors, windows, and screens closed.
- Screen windows: Make sure window and doors are protected by screens and any gaps are sealed.
- Mosquito net: As over the top as this might sound, if you are travelling in a risk-prone area, and your hotel or place of accommodation is not mosquito proof consider sleeping under a mosquito net. This goes for your home also.
- Air conditioning: If bed nets are not an option, stay and sleep in an air-conditioned room. Use a fan as an alternative. Mosquitos are weak fliers and literally can be blown away by a moderate breeze.
- Make your home safe: Turn your home into a place insects, mosquitos and bugs will want to avoid. Mosquitos require water to breed so remove all sources of water from around your house including pet bowls, bird baths, and buckets.
- Insect repelling candles: You can also burn some insect repelling candles to help keep the mosquitos away.
- Treat clothes with essential oils: Add 10-15 drops of each of your favorite essential oils into your laundry. Cedar, citronella, clove, eucalyptus, lavender, and lemongrass are all good options. Add to an organic soap such as Dr Bronner’s and wash your clothes as normal.
- Bug Zappers: A bug zapper is a light that is specifically designed to attract insects into the area. Whilst this is something you’d be wanting to avoid, by placing it away from where you are, they work a treat!
- Outdoor lighting: Install outdoor lighting that does not attract pests. Some conventional bulbs emit light in the ultraviolet range and insects can tend to fly toward these lights. Look for bulbs with limited UV emissions.
- Mosquito repelling bracelet: Sounds silly right? Well, they work. They’re a complete lifesaver and can be worn anywhere, anytime plus they smell good too as they use natural oils including Citronella, Geranium, Lavender, Peppermint.
- Citronella candles: Placing Citronella candles or tea lights around outdoor seating areas helps keep mosquitos away from your outdoor gathering as well as add a perfect touch to brighten up your home or garden. Citronella is a natural insecticide.
- Garlic: Garlic is good in so many ways so if you don’t mind the smell you can eat it or even rub freshly cut garlic on pulse points. Make a DIY spray too with puree garlic mixed with water to spray on plants and on yourself (if you are game!)
- Bushflower Body Spray: This is a must-have for any outdoor activities. Free of toxic chemicals, this spray is ideal and safe! It combines Tea Tree, Lemon-Scented Tea Tree and Citronella to make an effective natural repellent and is a must-have item for any outdoor activities.
- Wear light-coloured clothes to prevent bites: Avoid dressing in bright colors or flowery prints and wear white clothes where possible when outside. Surprising as it seems, mosquitos tend to stay away from this color. Mosquitos that bite during the day prefer dark clothing, while those out at night prefer colors that make you stand out, like red.
- Mouthwash: Make a DIY spray using mint flavoured mouthwash. Simply place it into a spray bottle and spray around doors and windows. This is an old home remedy that really works!
- Natural insect repellents: Most natural organic repellents are safe for pregnant or nursing women. Some good insect repellents to use are those containing: catnip, cedar, citronella, clove, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, lemon eucalyptus, mint, peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree. Most people who use these oils either placed them directly on pulse points or mixed them with another oil (some mixed them with moisturizer) and rubbed the combination into their skin.
- Mosquito repellent plants: Who’d have thought that there were plants that help to repel mosquitos. Plant mosquito repelling plants around the garden and near doors and windows. Mint, basil, catmint, rosemary, marigold, garlic and citronella plants are fabulous options.
- Cover up: If the weather permits, try to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, high collars, shoes and socks. There are plenty of insect repellent clothing options available, including a Bugsaway brand which offers clothing for men and women.
- Thick fabrics: Wear thick fabrics that are loose fitting because a mosquito can bite through thin clothing. Whilst this may be difficult if it is hot, humid or you live in a tropical area, it’s an important choice to make.
- Insect Shield® Repellent Apparel: You can wear clothing that has been designed with mosquito repellent built in. Insect Shield clothing uses permethrin to effectively repel mosquitos and other bugs and insects. Permethrin is designed to be used on clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear only and is safe for pregnant women. TIP: If you do purchase repellant clothing, wash separately from non-treated clothing.
- Honey Suckle: This is a natural and non-toxic option and works as a repellent too. If bitten, rub honeysuckle soap, oils or juices from the plant over the affected area. It can help to relieve the itching and draws the toxins too.
- Wear insect repellent during pregnancy: Insect repellents are considered safe during pregnancy when used as recommended. They’re an important part of protecting yourself from mosquito-borne viruses, especially when you’re traveling to places where these illnesses are common. Choose an insect repellent with up to 50% of DEET in it because that’s effective and at that level, it’s safe in pregnancy. Insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin, are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children older than 2 months when used according to the product label.
- Wash your skin: After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe, particularly if you have also been using insect repellent.
- Anti-Zika maternity clothes: MegaDose, a Brazilian company that designs maternity clothes, has released a new line of anti-Zika apparel. These clothes are made of a special fabric that is infused with a natural mosquito repellent called citronella and is designed to help pregnant women avoid contracting the dreaded Zika virus. If you are lucky enough to live in Brazil, seek them out!
Following these steps will decrease the likelihood of being bitten by a mosquito, but will not remove the risk completely. If you are pregnant, or trying to conceive, and planning on travelling, it is best not to visit affected areas. If you live in an affected area, discuss your best options with your healthcare provider.