If you’ve been outside at all this summer, you’ve probably noticed that the mosquitoes are biting, and it’s likely to get worse! Especially if you’re pregnant.
According to Joseph Conlon, a medical entomologist and technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association, mosquito season is already bad — and West Nile Virus, which is most commonly transmitted by the pesky insects, doesn’t even really kick in until late summer. Plus, studies have found that certain types of mosquitoes are more likely to snack on pregnant women.
“Pregnant women may be more attractive to mosquitoes,” Conlon says. "If the pregnant female is breathing more due to carting about a bit of extra weight, then she will also be a bit more attractive to mosquitoes, because mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide.” Plus, pregnant women have a warmer average body temperature, which is a cue for biting and landing, he adds.
While mosquito bites are no more dangerous to pregnant women than anyone else, you obviously don’t want to come down with a mosquito-borne disease while you’re pregnant (or even if you’re not pregnant!). While most people infected with West Nile will have no symptoms, about 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms, according to the CDC. Less than 1% of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness.
Last year was the deadliest year on record for West Nile since it was found in the U.S., and Conlon anticipates “serious mosquito issues” this year. So what can you do to stay safe?
Here are 5 tips for staying bite-free:
1. Wear light-colored clothing — mosquitoes that bite during the day favor dark-colored clothing.
2. Wear long sleeves and long pants if possible.
3. Wear loose-fitting clothing — mosquitoes can bite through tight clothing. If you must wear tight clothing, make sure it’s a very tight weave.
4. Use a repellant that’s been tested and registered with the EPA, Conlon urges. You’ll see the registration number listed right above the ingredients, he says. Products with DEET should be effective and safe for pregnant women in reasonable amounts (click here for more guidelines on using DEET while pregnant). DEET should not be used on infants less than 2 months of age and only at a concentration after that period of less than 10% — talk to your doctor before using any repellant on your baby.
5. If you’re out on the deck, Citronella candles might provide some protection; so might tiki torches, or campfire smoke if you’re camping. Bathing in garlic might help too, but that might repel more than just mosquitoes, Conlon jokes.
Keep Reading: How to use insect repellents safely during pregnancy