If you live in a mosquito-prone part of the country, we probably don’t have to tell you it’s prime mosquito season. Mosquitoes are more than just a biting nuisance. One bite from a Culex mosquito infected with the West Nile virus can cause mild to severe illness, and in rare cases, even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers this advice to avoid these blood suckers:
- Use repellent when you go outdoors. You should use repellent even if you're only going outside for a few minutes - it only takes one bite to get West Nile virus.
The CDC recommends the use of products containing active ingredients which have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use as repellents applied to skin and clothing. Of the active ingredients registered with the EPA, two have demonstrated a higher degree of efficacy. Products containing these active ingredients typically provide longer-lasting protection than others:
- DEET (Chemical Name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethly-3-methyl-benzamide)
- Picaridin (KBR 3023, Chemical Name: 2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester )
Products containing these active ingredients typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection:
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or PMD (Chemical Name: para-Menthane-3,8-diol) the synthesized version of oil of lemon eucalyptus
- IR3535 (Chemical Name: 3-[N-Butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester)
For those who prefer natural ingredients to synthetic chemicals, oil of lemon eucalyptus, a plant based repellent, is an EPA approved and effective option. In two recent studies, oil of lemon eucalyptus provided protection similar to repellents with low concentrations of DEET. Natural insect repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus are commercially available, or you can mix up a batch of your own with this recipe:
Natural Bug Repellent
1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup witch hazel (or cheap vodka)
5 drops of lemon eucalyptus essential oil
Empty spray bottle, 8 oz minimum capacity
Pour all the liquid ingredients into the spray bottle. Shake the bottle to mix the liquids. The repellent can be used on your skin or in the yard. Unlike store-bought sprays, this repellent is not water-proof or sweat-proof so you'll need to reapply as necessary. Unfortunately, it will not repel ticks, so you might have to use a commercial product with DEET if ticks are a concern.
- Wear long pants and long sleeves while outdoors. Apply permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent to clothing, as mosquitoes may bite through thin fabric. (Remember: don't use permethrin on skin.)
- Avoid being outdoors during peak mosquito activitiy. Many of the mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus bite between dusk and dawn. If you're outside during these hours pay special attention to using repellent.
- Use mosquito netting over infant carriers.
- Reduce the number of mosquitoes in your area by getting rid of containers with standing water that provide breeding places for the mosquitoes.
And if you’ve ever wondered why you are on the mosquito menu and the person right next to you is not... this video from Discovery News sheds light on research that may hold clues as to why mosquitoes find some folks tastier than others.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention