The Zika virus, which continues to wreak havoc in the Americas, is at the forefront of many travelers’ minds as we head into the summer months. There is currently no vaccine commercially available for the virus, nor is there a cure for those who become infected, but there are a few ways to stay safe.
We recently got this question from a viewer:
Dear Dr. Manny,
I’m traveling this summer and am concerned about the Zika virus. I don’t want to buy bug spray with chemicals in it. Are there any essential oils I can use to ward off mosquitos instead?
Before booking your vacation, familiarize yourself with the so-called Zika hotspots, which are areas where the virus is prevalent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel advisory to anyone headed to areas in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, the Pacific Islands, South America and Cape Verde.
It’s also important to consider the risks involved with travel to such areas. The Zika virus is particularly dangerous for expectant mothers and women of childbearing age. The virus can cause severe birth defects in developing babies such as microcephaly, which causes abnormal brain development. The virus can be contracted either by being bit by an Zika-infected mosquito, or through sexual transmission.
Most people who are infected with the virus do not experience symptoms, but those who do may suffer from fever, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, headache or conjunctivitis. If symptoms present within two weeks of traveling to a Zika-infested location, it is important to see your doctor.
Although there is no vaccine, you can take a few steps to protect yourself from this virus. Practicing safe sex with condoms, and protecting yourself from mosquitos by avoiding low-lying areas surrounded by water and covering exposed skin can help. The CDC has said it is safe to use insect repellant that contains deet, but for those looking to avoid chemicals there are also essential oils you can use.
“Essential oils are a really great way to keep mosquitoes away that could be carrying the Zika virus because they’re natural, toxin free and they smell really great,” Lara Riggio, owner of The Lara Touch Wellness Center in New York, and an eastern healing and essential oils expert, told FoxNews.com. “It’s super easy: Get a three ounce bottle so you can actually travel with it, [and] fill it halfway with water and halfway with witch hazel.”
“Then you’re going to take your essential oils— I like to use citronella, eucalyptus and tea tree oil— you’re going to take 10 to 15 drops, drop them in with the water, shake it up, spray it all over your body,” Riggio said. “The mosquitoes will stay away, and you’ll smell great.”
For the most up-to-date information on the Zika virus and travel notices, visit CDC.gov.
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