Health Watch -- Bug Woes

Health Watch is a Public Service of the   Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Enjoying the outdoors could leave you vulnerable to certain illnesses.

Even in hot climates, a summer evening outdoors can be pleasant. Unfortunately, mosquitoes tend to be most active at dusk when people are enjoying dinner on the patio or relaxing in the evening breeze. Mosquitoes often spread diseases, and the most talked-about mosquito-borne disease these days is West Nile virus. While this disease is still quite rare, it can cause flu-like symptoms and sometimes is even fatal.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas suggest using an insect repellent containing DEET when you're outdoors, especially if you're out in the evening when mosquitoes are swarming. You can help cut down on the mosquito population by providing fewer places for them to lay eggs. Eliminate any areas of standing water around your house, such as in saucers under potted plants or items that tend to collect rainwater.

Another outdoor hazard you might face is ticks, which can spread Lyme disease, as well as other illnesses. You could encounter ticks while hiking or camping - anywhere you're outdoors in tall grass. To avoid being bitten by a tick, UT Southwestern doctors say you should wear long sleeves and long pants when hiking and tuck your pants into your socks. Using a repellent will help keep ticks from attaching to you. When you return from the outdoors, check for any ticks that you may have brought home with you.