Front Range Community College Blog

West Nile Virus: How to Avoid Being Mosquito Bait

Recently, I spent several days at Poudre Valley Hospital with a family member, who is now confirmed as one of nine people in Larimer County with the West Nile Virus. She is quite ill and weak and she is a fairly young person – only 35 years old. Then, an instructor who works with me called and said she had contracted the disease as well. Both people warned me to wear “bug spray” whenever I was outside, as both said that getting West Nile was the worst virus they had ever contracted, and were so tired they could barely walk to another room in their house.

Why does someone get bitten more frequently than others?

Both women said they had been bitten by mosquitoes while outside doing yard work. My family member lives in Fort Collins near the ponds off East Prospect, and her neighborhood had been confirmed as having infected mosquitoes. She always has been a “bug attractant” and rarely makes it though a season without multiple bites from flying critters.

Researchers say that certain people are much more attractive to mosquitoes than others. Mosquitoes like people who produce excess amounts of acid like lactic acid (contained in sweat), who give off a lot of carbon dioxide (like when exercising), and are pregnant (pregnant ladies exhale more carbon dioxide, as do larger people). So mosquitoes will happily chew away on you and leave your small child alone, while you are out running and pushing your child in a jogging stroller.

Natural repellants to avoid being lunch for a bug.

Most researchers say the best way to protect yourself is to use a repellant that uses at least 23.8% of DEET – check the concentration in your favorite spray or lotion. However, there are many people (myself included) that want to avoid using chemical-based products.

Certain essential oils provide some protection – up to 1.5 hours: citronella, peppermint, and lemongrass are among those. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is more promising, having longer protection, and it is approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in products such as Repel. It is safe for children over the age of 3.

Thiamine (Vitamin B1) produces an odor that female mosquitoes do not like (and only females bite people to obtain blood for developing fertile eggs). Thiamine’s effectiveness is still being researched. One company is producing a skin patch containing thiamine called “Don’t Bite Me.”

Good news – garlic is good for you!

Per Pat Kendall, a food science and human nutrition specialist at Colorado State University’s Cooperative Extension, garlic contains a compound, an amino acid called allicin, that has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiprotozoal, and insect- repellant properties. Oil of garlic has been shown to kill some species of mosquito larva. There are garlic sprays that are available as an alternative to chemical pesticides. The active compounds (sulfurs) have been shown to be effective at deterring mosquitoes, when sprayed in a yard, and the pungent, lingering odor can deter them for up to several weeks. It has been theorized that when people eat garlic, the active compounds are released through the breath and through the skin (mosquitoes use smell to locate a likely meal). That should be the best excuse for eating a large meal of pasta and pomodora sauce, heavy on the garlic bread.

Who shouldn’t eat garlic?

Unfortunately, garlic is not the best if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. For anyone taking a blood thinning medication such as Coumadin, garlic can interfere with the clotting mechanism, so best to avoid. If you are going to have surgery, lay off garlic for a while before so your blood will clot normally. Best practice is to discuss this with a health professional or qualified nutritional consultant to see if you have any concerns.

We all want to stay as healthy and stress free as we can, and I hope the suggestions in this blog are helpful in giving tips on remaining that way. Stay Healthy!

Do you have other suggestions for repelling mosquitoes?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Annita Stansbury

was the director of the Holistic Health program at Front Range Community College’s Larimer Campus and an Advanced Practice Nurse – CNS and NP.

One Response to “West Nile Virus: How to Avoid Being Mosquito Bait”

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September 06, 2012 at 12:36 pm, kelly said:

I contracted West Nile while attending Metro 22 years ago. What is particularly dangerous about it (at least for me) was the fact I didn’t know I was sick. I was incoherent and my judgement was nonexistent. Permanent brain damage resulted affecting memory and judgement. It would have been easier to wear insect repellent than go back to school at 42 years old with a brain injury.