Hurricanes, mosquitoes and pregnancy

How does climate change affect your pregnancy?

Environmental effects of various human activities have built up into the recognized phenomenon of global climate change.

Developing nations are expected to face a host of health effects due to climate change, including vector-borne and water-borne diseases such as malaria, cholera, and dengue.[1] The effects of climate change on human health in India is a broad topic, covering areas from extreme weather events to shifts in vector-borne diseases.

Depending on where you live, you might expect to encounter one or more of these things:

  • More severe heat waves
  • Increases in storms, floods, cyclones
  • Increased risks of cholera, dysentery, typhoid
  • Increase in mosquito borne illnesses such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya, even Zika[2]
  • Exposure to extremes of heat, dust and smoke
  • Water shortages
  • Challenges to your mental health and emotional well-being such as post-traumatic stress disorder

What can you do to protect yourself and your baby?

  • Consume only boiled water
  • Consume a healthy plant-based diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits and grains
  • Ensure that meat and eggs are fully cooked
  • Stay physically active and fit wherever possible
  • Take measures to protect yourself against mosquito bites
  • Stay indoors during heatwaves or high-smoke conditions
  • Keep Together’s carefully compiled pregnant mother checklist during floods handy [3]

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) mentions some interesting facts about mosquitoes:

  • Adult mosquitoes do not generally survive high winds during a hurricane.[4]
  • Immediately following a hurricane, flooding occurs. Mosquito eggs laid in the soil by floodwater mosquitoes during previous floods hatch. This results in very large populations of floodwater mosquitoes, a.k.a “nuisance mosquitoes,” which are pests but generally do not spread disease-causing viruses.
  • However, the types of mosquitoes that can spread viruses may increase 2 weeks to 2 months after a hurricane, especially in areas that did not flood but received more rainfall than usual.
  • In areas with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and local spread of Zika, chikungunya, or dengue, increased rainfall may result in increased hatching of Aedes aegypti eggs from water-holding containers.

Stay protected from mosquito-borne illness:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Innovations in stylish yet fully protective maternity apparel such as the “Novaveil” are on the horizon.[5] This clothing is made from a textile created with nanotechnology that binds a permethrin-free repellent to the fabric on a molecular level
  • Know that Zika can be transmitted through sex, and follow the CDC’s guidelines to protect yourself [2]
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
    • Always follow the product label instructions
    • Reapply insect repellent as directed
    • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent after.

 

References:

  1. Ramana Dhara et al, “Climate change & infectious diseases in India: Implications for health care providers” Indian J Med Res. 2013 Dec; 138(6): 847–852.
  2. CDC guidelines: Pregnancy and Zika
  3. Together- For Her Health
  4. CDC guidelines: Mosquitoes and Hurricanes
  5. Maternova: Solutions for mothers and newborns
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