WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Warm weather might leave you longing for a tropical getaway, but health officials say you need to be prepared with sunscreen and insect repellant before leaving for spring vacation.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has a few tips so you don't get burned...or bitten!
1. The closer you get to the equator, the faster you get sunburned. Be especially careful where water reflects sunlight and intensifies burn potential. Wear a sunscreen and a tee shirt or cover-up during the middle of the day.
2. Be careful about what you eat and drink to prevent traveler's diarrhea. Bottled water, carbonated beverages, coffee, tea, cooked food and fruit you can peel are the best options.
3. Many spring destinations put people at risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases. The best way to prevent mosquito-bites is to put on sunscreen first, then wait 15-30 minutes before applying insect repellant. Dr. Christopher Ohl with Baptist Medical recommends ointment or cream because they last longer. Below is a list of mosquito-borne illnesses and where they most commonly occur:
- Malaria – Areas most at risk are northern South America, eastern Panama, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Guatemala, Honduras and parts of southern Mexico. Ohl suggests bringing bed netting to sleep under and a good insect repellant with 30 to 35 percent DEET. Talk with your doctor or travel medicine specialist before leaving to see if you also need to be on anti-malarial pills.
- Dengue fever – Transmitted by daytime-biting mosquitos, the disease is prevalent throughout the tropics in villages, small towns and urban areas or where beaches are backed by trees. Symptoms include headache with high fever and severe body aches.
- Zika – Miami Beach, Puerto Rico and Brownsville, Texas are still considered risk areas, although the risk in the continental United States decreases over the winter. If out in the sun and wind, mosquitos aren’t a problem, Ohl said, but more of an issue when you get back into cabanas at resorts and hotels. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Zika is primarily a concern for women who are pregnant or for people thinking about starting a family. Women should consider not getting pregnant for eight weeks after returning from a Zika-prone area, Ohl said. Men can spread Zika through their sperm for up to six months after contracting the virus, and should consider using barrier contraceptives during that time frame.
- Chikungunya – The Caribbean and Central America have sporadic cases. The virus causes fever, rash and joint aches that can last a while, Ohl said, so again avoiding mosquitos is the best protection.