The return of summer skeeters

If you’re itching to be outdoors this summer, recent weather has brought on another familiar itch for those outdoors with prime conditions for mosquitoes.

Recent rains and flooding has created many standing pools of water where mosquitoes breed. Mosquito eggs hatch when exposed to water, and much of the insect’s short lifespan is spent in the water. Public health administrator Shelby Kroona said emptying pools of standing water around a home is a good way to limit mosquito presence.

“It only takes a little bit of water for a mosquito egg to hatch,” Kroona said. “Everything from buckets to window wells can accumulate water where more mosquitoes can hatch.”

While the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 31 cases of West Nile virus in the state last year, no cases have yet been reported this year in Iowa. The nearest reported cases this year come from Chicago, which has only seen two confirmed cases. However, Kroona said more cases typically show up later in the summer, as a case is only reported once it is diagnosed by a doctor.

Typically, mosquitoes are most active at sunrise, sunset and early in the evening, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, Kroona said several bites she has sustained are evidence that mosquitoes in the area are active during the day as well. During the day, cooler, shaded areas and areas near rivers or other large bodies of water are more likely to contain mosquitoes.

A mosquito bite is little more than an annoyance for most. There are many over the counter medications available to treat mosquito bites. However, medical attention may be required if the bite becomes infected. Kroona said that scratching the bite area heavily can allow an infection to get into one’s blood. If swelling becomes larger than a normal mosquito bite, Kroona said it’s important to have the infection treated.

To prevent exposure to mosquitoes, repellents are useful, but there are other steps that can be taken. The EPA recommends tucking shirts into pants, and pants into socks to cover gaps in clothing where mosquitoes can get to skin. Long sleeve shirts and long pants can help as well, but Kroona said that’s difficult during the summer heat. She also recommends mosquito traps for outdoor areas, and said there are directions to make a homemade mosquito trap online that are typically more effective at keeping mosquitoes away from an area than citronella candles.