Health officials announced on Thursday they might have found the first case of Zika in the United States that wasn't the result of foreign travel or sexual transmission. In other words, the disease might now be spreading locally in the U.S. That's scary news, especially for golfers of child-bearing years, as golf courses and their adjoining lakes, ponds, swamps and wetlands provide some of the best habitats for mosquitoes this side of the Amazon Rainforest. Two types of mosquitoes, commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito and yellow fever mosquito, pass the disease to people through their bites. Zika is rarely deadly, but can cause joint pain, rashes, and fever. But the biggest issue is that it can cause severe birth defects to babies born from an infected mother. It also can be transmitted sexually.
Even if you're not concerned with contracting Zika, mosquitoes in the U.S. also transmit a variety of other nasty illnesses including West Nile Virus, encephalitis and dengue fever. So what can you do about it if you play golf? Here are six things to remember to try and stay bite-free this summer.
1) WHEN TO PLAY
Your best bet to avoid these blood-suckers is a late-morning tee time. Unfortunately, the yellow-fever mosquito and some other species don't mind biting during the day. However, mosquitoes in general don't like overhead sunlight as much as they do shade and twilight. So dew-sweepers and evening golfers are increasing their risk of being bitten.
2) WHERE TO PLAY
Many golfers might despise windy conditions, but breezy golf courses aren't very friendly to mosquitoes. Obviously, it makes it harder for them to fly and land on you. A stiff breeze also disperses carbon dioxide, lactic acid and body odors that attract mosquitoes. It's smart to avoid courses that have a lot of standing water. Ponds, wetlands and even large collection areas of rainfall are ideal mosquito-breeding grounds. Keep that in mind if the course you play doesn't drain well.
3) WHAT TO WEAR
Ideally, you would keep most of your skin covered. We realize that's not realistic in Georgia in July. Still, there are precautions you can take. The first is to wear light-colored clothing. Mosquitoes are attracted to darker colors and black. Although woven fabrics aren't as comfortable as knit fabrics (most golf shirts are knit), they do make it harder for mosquitoes to penetrate clothing with their proboscis—the straw-like tube that taps into your blood. (Gross.)
4) WHAT TO BUY
Insect repellent is a must, but not all repellents are effective. For example, the original Skin So Soft lotion made by Avon isn't approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as a repellent. But Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus is. Our Editors' Choices for repellent are Natrapel 8-Hour Deet Free, Off! Deep Woods VIII Dry and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus. The key active ingredients to look for in any product are DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. In addition to these products, golfers should consider spraying clothes with a chemical called Permethrin, which doesn't stain clothing and can ward off mosquitoes for up to six washings.
5) WHO TO KNOW
Talk to the superintendent. Find out where the trouble spots are around the course and when the last time insecticides were applied.
6) WHAT TO REMEMBER
If you're using sunscreen and insect repellent—which you should be!—always apply the sunscreen first. Give it a few minutes to be absorbed before applying repellent. Symptoms for West Nile and Zika often dissipate after a week or two. If you've been bitten and show symptoms, it's a good idea to get a blood test from your doctor.