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Mosquitos: Don't let pests ruin outdoors

by Rody Rodriguez, staff writer

The Outdoor Lifestyles section of last issue features an Alaskan winter adventure. Mosquitoes aren’t much of a problem in winter, but if you visited Alaska in the summer, you would find them something of a nuisance.

Why go to Alaska for a good nuisance. If you have hiked or picnicked on O‘ahu—especially the windward side—you have had to deal with the mosquitoes. These pests can turn a fun outing into a day of misery. Worse than the nasty bites and the ruined experience, mosquitoes can transmit deadly diseases that can affect your life for months or even years: the West Nile virus, for example, and dengue fever and malaria. These make preventive measures essential.




There are several ways to combat mosquitoes in the wilderness. For one, choose the right clothing. Long pants, socks, and shoes are essential. Any exposed skin is a target for mosquitoes.
In a tropical climate you aren’t going to bundle up in a ski mask, so to keep from being eaten alive, you can use insect repellant.

Insect repellants come in many forms, from sprays to wristbands. The effective ones all contain one of two types of prevention, man-made or natural. The man-made one is the chemical DEET (chemical name, N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). There are several alternative natural substitutes, but the most common ones are a eucalyptus-based formula or citronella oil.

DEET is available in several brands. OFF® and Cutter are common. Insect repellent with DEET prevents the mosquitoes from biting by masking the odors people emit that attract mosquitoes. Mosquito repellants that come with DEET are effective for a variety of different time periods, varying with the strength of the application from a mere two hours to a whopping six hours for a single application.

Natural alternatives for mosquito repellant were created because of health concerns about the chemical DEET, especially if it is used on children. However, despite the fear regarding DEET, it has been found to be safe as long as it is used in accordance with the instructions on the label.
Mosquitoes are most likely to attack in the morning during the hours after daybreak and in the late afternoon in the hours just before dark, and these are the times during which repellant should be used regularly. However, mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, and if there are ponds or abundant puddles in the area, mosquitoes may be active and numerous all day long.

For more information about dengue fever, one of the diseases mosquitoes can transmit, see the sidebar this page.


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