Do Mosquito Repellents Really Work?
Serving Illinois and Indiana
When it comes to mosquito repellents, there’s one big question – chemical or natural? There really isn’t one answer. It depends on several factors: where you are, what activity you’re doing, and who is around you. There are pros and cons for each type of repellent, as well as many myths and preconceived notions about them and their effectiveness. Only you can know for sure which type will work best for you, but it always helps to have facts to back up your decision.
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Do Natural Mosquito Repellents Work?
These have gained traction recently among the eco-conscious as a response to what they see as an overuse of pesticides and other chemicals in the US and around the world. People didn’t have chemical sprays 100 years ago, they argue, so why should we use them now? There are a lot of different methods for repelling mosquitoes naturally, but in order to protect ourselves, we should separate fact from fiction.
Natural mosquito repellents are typically essential oils such as lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon or thyme. The theory is that mosquitoes, which hunt using both sight and smell, won’t want to approach such powerful odors. However, you should never use undiluted essential oils on your skin – for some, it may cause a severe allergic reaction. Instead, these essential oils should be diluted using a mild carrier oil (such as almond or sunflower oil). The key is to find the right balance – three to five drops of essential oil per fluid ounce of carrier oil is suggested.
The downside to essential oils as natural repellents is in their effectiveness when compared to chemical sprays. Natural methods may be generally safer to use, especially for young children or pregnant women, but if they don’t work to protect you from disease-ridden mosquito bites, that relative safety is unimportant. Natural remedies only last for an hour or two before they need to be reapplied, so it’s best to use them in situations when you can do so often: around your house, at a campsite, or on a short hike.
Are Chemical Mosquito Repellents Safe?
Contrary to what people may think, you’re not just spraying hazardous chemicals on yourself and throwing your life to chance. Each chemical repellent on the market must pass rigorous FDA and EPA standards before it can be sold to the general public. Countless scientific professionals are working to perfect these formulas and strike that previously-mentioned balance between safety and effectiveness. For example, compounds like picaridin – created from an extract of the same plant genus that produces the black pepper on your table – have been used effectively in Europe and Australia since 1998.
Of course, when talking about chemical insect repellents, one should mention DEET, or diethyltoluamide. Developed in 1941 by the USDA for US Army troops to use during jungle warfare in World War II, it’s a yellowish oil that can be applied to skin or clothing. DEET provides protection not only from mosquitoes but ticks, fleas, chiggers, and many other biting insects as well. Many common insect repellents contain DEET and are legally required to mark the concentration on the label. There is a direct correlation between this concentration and the hours of effectiveness it provides – studies have shown 20 to 34 percent DEET offers anywhere from three to six hours of protection, while 100 percent DEET offers up to 12 hours. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention typically recommends 30 to 50 percent DEET to effectively prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illness.
While DEET has been proven safe for human use and is generally considered the most effective mosquito repellent currently out there, it’s not without its downsides. It can cause rashes, skin irritation and disorientation in high concentrations, and should never be applied over cuts or where it can get in your eyes or mouth. It should always be washed off skin and clothes at the end of the day – it’s also a solvent, and can dissolve materials like plastics, synthetic fabrics like rayon and spandex, painted and varnished surfaces, and even some watch crystals. Still, even with these caveats, it’s been estimated that DEET is applied over 200 million times a year all over the world.
Repellent-Free Mosquito Prevention Tips
If you’re still on the fence about which type of repellent to use, you’re not the only one. Like most things, it’s better to use all available resources in moderation until you figure out a system that is convenient and effective for you. However, if you’re looking for a quick fix, below are a few steps you can take immediately to keep you protected from painful bites as spring turns to summer:
- Plant citronella grass, lavender, marigolds, and other flora around your property to repel mosquitoes naturally.
- Certain species of mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, and all are attracted to heat. Wear light-colored and breathable long-sleeve shirts and pants to keep your skin protected.
- Wear clothing treated with Permethrin, an insecticide that kills black flies, ticks, and mosquitoes without any harmful side effects on humans if used properly.
- Eliminate areas of standing or stagnant water, which is where mosquitoes like to lay eggs. Even a tiny spoonful of water is enough to harbor hundreds of baby mosquitoes.
Call Anderson Pest – Expert Mosquito Exterminators
When it comes to preventing mosquito bites, there are a lot of different ways you can go. The consensus seems to be that chemical repellents are the most effective solution, but as always, it depends on your unique situation. Science is still trying to figure out why certain people get bitten more than others, and to find a perfect repellent solution that is safe for both humans and the environment.
With mosquito-borne illnesses on the rise around the world, you shouldn’t wait until you’ve already been bitten to deal with these airborne pests. Call Anderson today to schedule an appointment with one of our pest control professionals.