Insects and their relatives — ticks, mites,
spiders, and so on — are commonly known
as arthropods. This group transmits a variety
of diseases that are responsible for approximately
2 percent of deaths worldwide. Diseases transmitted
by arthropods range from Lyme disease and West
Nile fever in the United States to malaria and
dengue fever in areas such as Africa and parts
of Asia. In many cases, simple precautions can
significantly reduce, if not prevent, the risk
Some insect-borne diseases, such as malaria,
are reappearing in areas where the disease was
thought to be eradicated. Some diseases can be
prevented by vaccinations or preventive use of
specific medication, but for many other diseases
the only preventive measure available is avoiding
arthropod bites in the first place.
Covering as much skin as possible is an
important precaution against arthropod bites.
If possible, long-sleeved shirts tucked into
long pants are recommended in areas where
arthropod-borne diseases are common. A hat
will help to protect your face.
When hiking in forests or jungles, pants
should be tucked into socks. Open shoes should
not be worn on hikes. Light colored clothes
help detect ticks more easily. According
to the CDC, prompt removal of attached ticks
can prevent some infections.
Exposed skin should be covered in insect
repellent containing the chemical DEET (N,N-diethylmetatoluamide).
The higher the DEET concentration — up
to 30 percent — the longer the protection
provided by the repellent. Studies show that
no increased protection occurs in concentrations
over 30 percent. The recommended concentration
for children is 20 percent, and the maximum
concentration allowed for children is 30
percent. Do not use DEET-containing repellents
under clothes, and wash your skin when coming
back indoors. Do not spray repellent on face,
instead spray on your hands and apply to
A new controlled-formula containing 20 percent
DEET is now available on the market. It provides
longer lasting protection with lower concentration
of DEET, while greatly minimizing the amount
of DEET that's absorbed through the skin.
Cover clothes and shoes in repellent containing
permethrin. After spraying permethrin on
clothes, allow them to dry before wearing.
Permethrin will bind to fabric, and can last
through five washing cycles. Never apply
permethrin to skin.
If you sleep in non-screened, non-air-conditioned
accommodations use bed nets, preferably treated
with permethrin. Nets should be tucked firmly
under the mattress, or extend all the way
to the floor. Before using the net, make
sure it isn't torn, and check that no mosquitoes
are inside the area you are going to protect
with the net. Nets should have a mesh size
no larger than 1.5 mm. Permethrin protection
can last for months on unwashed nets. Bed
nets are available in sporting goods stores.