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Going to North America for a vacation? Watch out for ticks and mosquitoes.

Editor’s note: One of our favorite things about living in Cuenca is not having to worry about ticks and mosquitos. A few flies, yes, especially when it’s warmer. Enjoy this column from the Washington Post that suggests some nontoxic methods to protect yourself against mosquitoes and ticks. And yes, you can spell mosquitoes with an ‘oes’ or just ‘os’.

By Jennifer Sass

Mosquitoes and ticks can spoil a beautiful day and make people sick. Beyond buzzing, biting, sucking and stinging, they can carry serious diseases. Tiny blacklegged ticks carry Lyme disease. Nighttime biting Culex mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus and Japanese encephalitis. And the aggressive Aedes mosquitoes — happy to bite any time — can cause Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya. And that’s just a sampling of the troubles they bring.

Little wonder we look for ways to protect ourselves from mosquitoes and ticks, especially this time of the year, when we spend more time outside. With a little thought and care, though, we can do so in ways that are healthier for us — and for the world around us — than using toxic chemicals.

Insecticides kill all insects, not just ticks and mosquitoes. They also kill important pollinators such as bees, butterflies and moths. Insecticides harm the animals that eat these insects such as bats and birds. And they wash into waterways, where they can kill aquatic invertebrates that provide critical food for fish, frogs and other stream dwellers.

In other words, using toxic pesticides can end up harming or killing the very things that make our flowers bloom and gardens grow. They can also pose a risk to children and pets by leaving a toxic chemical residue on everything, including lawn furniture, outdoor toys and play sets.

I’ve made it a personal challenge to prevent mosquito and tick bites without using chemicals that could harm me, my pets, beneficial insects such as butterflies and bees or the birds that eat them.

To prevent tick bites, avoid walking through tall grasses and leaf litter. If you’re going off the paved pathways, wear closed shoes and long pants tucked into long socks so feet and ankles are not exposed. Wearing light-colored clothing helps to spot a tick that may be hitching a ride.

Always check your clothes and skin for ticks when you return from the outdoors; make sure to check hiding places such as in and around ears and hair, under arms, behind knees and in belly buttons. If you shower within a few hours of returning, you have a good chance of washing away unattached ticks, and at the same time, you can check your skin for ticks. Don’t forget to check your pets for ticks, too.

If you find an attached tick, remove it using fine-tipped tweezers, grasping the tick as close to your skin’s surface as possible so as to pull out the whole insect including its head. Wash the bitten area with soapy water afterward.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention generally does not recommend saving the tick for testing, but you should have yourself tested if you had an attached tick, or if you feel symptoms of tick-borne diseases: fever or chills; aches and pains; any rash.

To avoid mosquito bites, cover up as much as possible by wearing socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts (you can avoid harmful sun exposure at the same time — a bonus). Try to avoid going out at dusk when many mosquito species tend to bite. Make sure window and door screens are intact to prevent mosquitoes and other insects from getting in. Make sure all standing water sources are dumped out regularly to reduce larval populations — this includes upturned children’s toys, trash cans and lids, birdbaths, plant trays and other havens for mosquito breeding.

If you use insect repellent — as I do when I’m out in the woods, along a creek, or other buggy places — the CDC recommends those registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Make sure you follow the label directions. In particular, follow label warnings if the product is not meant to be used on infants or young children.

Do not use any insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old — for those little ones, use avoidance strategies such as keeping them covered up, and on a blanket instead of directly on grassy or leafy ground where mosquitoes and ticks abound.

Try to put as little repellent as possible directly on skin. Instead, spray clothing. I usually only use repellent on my hair and neck. If I’m not wearing full-cover shoes and socks then I spray my feet and ankles. Once I spray my clothing, that keeps the pests at bay.

Don’t apply repellents to skin that will be covered by clothing or on cuts or open wounds.

Don’t spray faces — instead, spray the repellent into hands and then apply it to sensitive areas such as the face to avoid getting it into eyes and mouth. Apply it this way to young children, instead of letting them do it themselves.

Plant-based repellents such as oil of lemon eucalyptus work well, smell nice and are less toxic. The CDC and Consumer Reports have recommendations for products and good information on how to use them safely and effectively. If you think you need more protection and want a DEET product, make sure it contains no more than 25 percent DEET.

What if neighbors, communities and local authorities spray insecticides outdoors? Try to talk them off that ledge using all the great resources from the CDC and others. But, failing that, try to get them to use the least toxic pesticides that will be effective, at the lowest application rate that will be effective.

Insist that they only use insecticides in a way that minimizes contact with people — for example, avoiding daytime spraying when people are outside, and using targeted, rather than broadcast, spraying whenever possible. And, insist that they provide advance notice of planned spraying, so neighbors have a chance to close windows, bring toys inside and cover outdoor furniture.

At this point, we’ve failed to save the outdoor critters and are just trying to prevent collateral damage to people and pets.


  • Find out what to watch for in your state with the interactive map and “Guide to Mosquito and Tick Diseases” from Consumer Reports.
  • Visit the CDCwebsite for updated, region-specific information on the many varieties of mosquitoes and ticks and the diseases they carry, along with current prevention and treatment recommendations.
  • The EPA hosts an insect repellent site.
  • If you think you or someone you know has been poisoned with pesticides, contact your medical provider. Health professionals with a regional Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unitwill know how to recognize and treat pesticide poisoning.
  • Report pesticide poisoning events — including to people, pets and wildlife — to a Poison Control Center, and to the 800 number on the product package if you have it. Poison incident data is aggregated and used to inform the EPA’s pesticide approval process. It can be publicly accessed through a Freedom of Information Act request to the EPA.
  • If you think you need to spray your outdoor areas, use the Beyond Pesticides website to find a service providerthat will provide nontoxic pest control.

Jennifer Sass is an environment health scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.

Credit: The Washington Post

5 thoughts on “Going to North America for a vacation? Watch out for ticks and mosquitoes.

    1. C’mon, Calvin. This is important info with excellent ways to avoid problems for oneself, others, and the environment.

  1. Fertilizer spreading is what the alpha(id & a)bet agencies do. Raison detre, reason for the seasoning•scripturing.

    There’s a heluva a lot less bees, butterflies, amphibians, etc out there today than there was in ’70, when EPA (HQ is the William Jefferson Clinton building, appropriately enough…) rode to the rescue. Capice? (No, it’s not mere spurious correlation.)

    David Hume. He was living in La Fleche, same place Descarte had attended Jesuit college, & got into it with those sophist sofa potatoes (the “os” ending works too – cuz “operating system”). For the exercise. In one set, a Jesuit told him about “some nonsensical miracle performed in their convent.” An argument occurred to Hume which purported to show that one should always be skeptical of such reports. The jesuit could not find a flaw in it, but concluded that it must be wrong, since otherwise it would cast doubt on the scriptures.

    *not this guy, tho, cuz a rose by any other name…

    Only puttin’ up this link (search for yourself, if disinterested, which is to say interested in spielunkin’ the rabbithole so’s to determine what’ll it take to fill it in & make it solid, so’s all the kiddies stop fallin’ in to their dooms )…

    So I can put this one up…

    There’s “all kinds” of scripture. Scrip+ture. Fiat-fake value (or money) & capture.

    Including something the secular jesuit taterheads call “regulatory capture.”

    Reg aidabet koolaid does indeed capture, & that’s by design. It is not, has never been, will never be, shining Camelot captured by the vandals. The vandals built it – & ya’ll came (if the ya’ll fits, yell out…what ya’v been yelling out forever…all the various variations of “there oughta’ be a law”).


    “Because all political systems are wars against the private ownership of property, statists must redefine social and political issues to exclude “property” as the defining factor. Thus, a manufacturer who is disposing of industrial wastes by releasing them into the air, or dumping them into rivers, is charged with “pollution” or an offense against the “environment.” To correctly characterize his actions as property trespasses against those who either breathe in the smoke or gas, or whose lands are damaged by the waste, would be to focus on what politically-minded people know would threaten their regulatory schemes. If the wrong engaged in by the manufacturer is defined as an intrusion upon an individual’s property interests, people might soon begin to regard governmental action as property invasions as well. It is safer to treat the act as some hazy collective wrong to “the environment,” an approach that raises the more interesting question: do environments — whatever that word might mean — enjoy “rights” of non-transgression that individuals do not? …

    Our politicized thinking disposes us to disregard the civilizing importance of the property concept. As a result, when interpersonal violence occurs — manifesting a disrespect for individual property boundaries — many of us are at a loss to understand the causes. Such people — who are often the principal advocates of a more expansive state regulation of people’s lives — can do no more than offer such mechanistic explanations as drugs, television, guns, or the lyrics of rock music. When young men go to their schools and start killing teachers and classmates, the statists refuse to ask the most obvious question: why did they select a government school as their target? Why have privately owned schools been largely immune from such acts of rage?

    There is a causal connection between property ownership and responsibility for one’s decision making. As one who makes decisions over my own life and property, I am responsible for the consequences of my actions. But to the degree the state preempts private decision making, it

    restricts an individual’s sense of responsibility for his or her actions. If the state insists upon controlling our behavior, is it not easy to see how individuals might come to believe that they are not responsible for their acts? Do you begin to understand the dynamics that underlie current society’s preoccupation with “victimhood?” If “others” control my life, why should I feel responsible for my conduct?

    The private property principle integrates the seemingly contrary notions of individual liberty and social order. Thanks to physicist Niels Bohr’s “complementarity principle,” it is more appropriate to regard such qualities as reciprocal, symmetrical expressions of the wholeness, rather than divisiveness, in nature. When I am at liberty to do anything I choose with what is mine, I am, at the same time, restricted to acting only with respect to my own property interests. My authority ends at my boundary line. If I want to make decisions regarding your property, I must enter into a contract with you to do so.

    It is respect for the boundary line separating your and my property interests that fosters both individual liberty and social order. This is why property, liberty, and social order, are simply different ways of talking about the same thing. We enjoy liberty only to the degree we have unrestrained decision-making over our lives — including the resources we require (e.g., space to occupy; food, air, water to consume; tools to employ; etc.) in order to live as we choose.

    This important lesson was finally learned, late in life, by the noted Marxist, Max Eastman, who observed:

    It seems obvious to me now — though I was slow coming to the conclusion — that the institution of private property, the dispersion of power and importance that goes with it, has been a main factor in producing that limited amount of free-and-equalness which Marx hoped to render infinite by abolishing this institution.

    Those desirous of ending the social conflicts, wars, state-generated economic dislocations, and other societal problems, would do well to heed Eastman’s insights. One might begin by making a list of all the “problems” to which one has habitually sought solutions in legislative halls or courtrooms, and then ask: which of these problems involves a failure to identify and respect property interests? From such a perspective, one might formulate solutions that do not require you to despoil or otherwise put yourself at war with your neighbor.

    No doubt there will be many disinclined to such an approach: men and women who cannot rise above their political conditioning or ambitions for power over the lives and property of others. But the pretense of “social responsibility” with which the statists applaud themselves and one another will at least be unmasked. One does not encourage “responsibility” by forcibly restricting the range of people’s authority over their own lives.”
    ~ Butler Shaffer

    A boo-dis is born. Infrequently. Not made.
    Same for the very frequently born cowtows & their cowboy towlines.

    But unlike the “unevolved” hummingbirds & their mock territory battles, the
    preeminent property of propertyless pecu-people is penchant to kill & die

    for “their” “environment.” Pogo Possum…another Robin Willimas:

    c.1500, from Latin pecuniarius “pertaining to money,” from pecunia “money,
    property, wealth,” from pecu “cattle, flock,” from PIE root *peku- “wealth,

    movable property, livestock” (cf. Sanskrit pasu- “cattle,” Gothic faihu “money, fortune,” Old English feoh “cattle, money”).

    Livestock was the measure of wealth in the ancient world. For a possible parallel sense development in Old English, see fee, and cf., evolving in the
    other direction, cattle. Cf. also Welsh tlws “jewel,” cognate with Irish

    tlus “cattle,” connected via notion of “valuable thing.”

    Strawberry towlines & queegballs forever…

    …& queequeg coffins (only one of which floated away, ‘steada goin’ down…)

    Thanks for the exercise.

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