We were on our last night in South Africa when my boy, fresh from the shower, comes out of the bathroom with an enlarged ear. I investigate to see what it was and it looked like a mosquito bite. Because the windows were left open after housekeeping cleaned our room at our bed and breakfast, mosquitos came in and naturally bit Philip. As a mom, I felt a bit paranoid. Talks of Zika virus is getting more widespread by the day, and its presence is becoming a scary mystery. Many times, fear cannot be helped apart from knowing the correct information. So here we go, the nerd in me has researched and found that there are many misconceptions to mosquito-borne diseases like Dengue and Zika.
Apart from keeping your surroundings clean and making sure your child is safe from mosquito bites, arming yourself with the right information can also be helpful. We've answered the most common questions you have about Dengue and Zika:
Myth #1: Is natural good?
Fact #1: Repellents with DEET and Picaridin are safe and effective.
As a mom, we only want what's best and safe for our children. Choosing natural mosquito repellents has its benefits but it doesn't necessarily mean these are your only choices. Products like OFF! Insect Repellent Lotion are proven to be effective and safe. Couple that with covering up your skin as much as possible, and you have some insurance that you are battling this silent but deadly new killer mosquito virus on the loose. I always cover Philip from neck to toes if we really need to be quite exposed in mosquito-laden places! I also do that to myself since mosquitos super love me, haha. And since I am also trying to be pregnant, would rather be safe than sorry.
OFF! has DEET and Picaridin (depending on variants), which can keep mosquitos away from your kids for several hours. According to an article from the NPR, written by Susan Brink, DEET (with the full chemical name N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) was found to be the most effective for both the initial application and after four hours of use, along with Picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus. It doesn't kill mosquitos but effectively keeps them away.
Myth #2: Do I have to worry about the Zika virus if I am not pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant?
Fact #2: The Zika virus can still affect you regardless if you are pregnant or not
It's suspected that the Zika virus can cause neurological problems and autoimmune disorders—as well as long-term complications on babies like microcephaly. Although the link between microcephaly and Zika is yet to be proven, pregnant women are still advised to be tested for the virus. To wit, microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby's head is abnormally smaller than expected. It can result to developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, hearing loss and vision problems.
Myth #3: Can Zika be transmitted through breastfeeding?
Fact #3: The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risk of Zika virus transmission.
There are no records yet of the Zika virus being transmitted through breastfeeding. Although the Zika virus is known to circulate in the blood, through sexual contact and blood transfusion, there are no indications yet that the same could be said about breast milk. Mommies with Zika are still encouraged to continue their breastfeeding because it's actually okay. Mosquitoes tend to breed in stagnant water but you do not directly get the virus from water or food.
Myth #4: Is my child and I safe if we spend most of our time in a room with air conditioning?
Fact #4: Staying indoors does not guarantee your and your kid's safety from mosquitoes
Mosquitoes can live in the nooks and crannies of your home and your yard. Rather than keeping your kids in a room, it's best to make sure you follow the World Health Organization and the Department of Health's guidelines to keeping your kids safe from Dengue and the Zika virus. Make sure you clean your surroundings and throw away anything that can store stagnant water. Dress your kids in long sleeves and pants. And remember to use mosquito repellent whether you are at home or outdoors.
Myth #5: Does the Zika virus have identical symptoms to seasonal flu?
Fact #5: Zika symptoms are not as prominent as the signs of seasonal flu
Although Zika and seasonal flu share almost the same symptoms, there are still some clear differences. The seasonal flu is characterized by a sudden onset of high fever, severe dry cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and runny nose. On the other hand, victims of the Zika virus can get a low fever or rash, conjunctivitis or muscle and joint pain, which will only appear a few days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Zika may also cause long-term health complications like microcephaly on unborn babies—however, this is not yet definite.
Hope these details somehow helped moms out there who can be quite paranoid like me!