There are two ways to guarantee that mosquitoes won’t bite you.
- Get a shield
- Go incognito
Let’s start with number 2 first. What if I told you that there is a magical coating that cloaks you from marauding hordes of blood-sucking mosquitoes, no matter where you go? An invisibility cape that takes about 20 seconds to put on. Would you wear it? Like standing upwind of a deer hides your location, wearing repellent has a similar effect when mosquitoes try to track down their next target, as explained here in How mosquitoes find you.
The biggest problem with the efficacy of repellent is that people don’t wear it. If you are complaining about mosquitoes and not wearing repellent, you may as well criticize the government but not exercise your right to vote.
Here are the top 3 reasons people give for not wearing mosquito repellent:
Certainly some repellents are more heavily scented than others (we’re looking at you DEET), but two have almost no smell at all. Look at the front of the bottle and go for one that contains picaridin or IR3535 (also sometimes listed by its chemical name, ethyl N-acetyl-N-butyl-ß-alaninate). If odor is your issue, these are the two you want.
It doesn’t work
There are people at universities that make a living studying the effectiveness of mosquito repellents. One thing they can agree on is that there are 4 effective active ingredients.
Have you tried each of these? Not everyone will find the same one the most effective. Keep trying until one works for you; it might not be the same one that works for your friends. Also, note the percentage of active ingredient. It tells you how much of every spray is actual cloaking juice. The more active ingredient, the longer it will repel before you need to reapply. If you’re out where ticks are also abundant, choose one that is effective for both and more highly concentrated.
|Active Ingredient||Picaridin||IR3535||Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus||DEET|
|% Ingredient||15 to 20%||15 to 20 %||30 to 40%||10 to 30%|
|Fights Against||Mosquitoes||Mosquitoes and Ticks||Mosquitoes||Mosquitoes and Ticks|
|Age Restrictions||> 2 months||> 2 months||> 3 years||> 2 months|
|Derived From||Synthetic version of piperine, found in group of plants that produce black peppercorns||Structurally similar to the natural substance β-alanine – a component of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)||Derived from lemon eucalyptus tree branches and leaves or a synthetic version of the same (PMD)||Synthetic repellent invented by the US Army for use by military personnel in insect-infested areas|
|Also Listed As||Icaridin, KBR 3023||ethyl N-acetyl-N-butyl-ß-alaninate||Para-methane-diol or PMD||N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide|
|Additional Information||NPIC Fact Sheet||NPIC Fact Sheet||NPIC Fact Sheet||NPIC Fact Sheet|
I don’t want to bathe in chemicals
Does anyone want to expose themselves to harmful substances? Of course not. Rest assured that repellents are approved through the EPA and safe for use – read the label. If you use fabric softener, you are exposing yourself to more unknown chemicals formulations than you would be with repellent. Some people are sensitive to DEET and can develop a rash. If the concern is to find a more “natural” mosquito repellent, then check out oil of lemon eucalyptus. It’s derived from an actual lemon eucalyptus tree, but standardized so that the same amount of active ingredient is in each batch. See this previous post for guidelines on using repellents safely.
Back to Number 1
When weighing all the options to reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites, and thus the risk of mosquito-borne disease, nothing beats an impenetrable shield. Anything that physically separates those piercing, sucking mouthparts from your skin provides the ultimate protection. This usually begins in the form of clothing with a tight weave that hangs loosely, away from the body.
Bug nets around strollers are the best protection for babies before they’re old enough (see chart above) to wear repellent. Bug jackets are available for adults too – and depending on your situation you might consider it! When treating post-Harvey floodwaters for mosquito larvae, Township staff used these to protect against the swarms of floodwater mosquitoes.
Fighting off mosquitoes starts by protecting yourself but remember that you can also fight back by treating and removing common breeding places around the home. By protecting yourself with these two simple steps above, you can once again comfortably enjoy your time outside. Just remember that you are only invisible to the mosquitoes, the rest of the world can still see you!