Repelling Mosquitos: What Works and What Doesn’t

No one wants to come home with a bunch of bug bites.

For most of us, mosquitos are an annoying nuisance, but taken to the extreme, they can even be dangerous. Doubtless you’ve read stories about West Nile and Zika virus. While the people affected by these diseases have tended to be higher-risk and symptom-free, the more time you spend outside, the higher the chance you could join the statistics. No one likes the red welts that mosquitos leave as their trail.  Apart from wrapping yourself in clothing, the only way to stay protected is by using an effective mosquito repellent.

Deet Mosquito Repellant

Despite its bad rap, DEET is considered safe when used as recommended, and its effectiveness is backed up by a 70-year history of use, according to a New Mexico State University study. It works by rendering mosquitoes that land on you less likely to bite. Higher concentrations aren’t necessarily more effective. In fact, OFF Deep Woods, which has a 25 percent concentration of DEET, edged out Repel 100, which has a 98.11 percent concentration. However, high concentrations are associated with longer protection.

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Other names for lemon eucalyptus oil are citronella and citriodiol. Products containing a concentration of 30 percent lemon eucalyptus oil extract, such as Cutter’s, are about as effective as DEET-containing products, but they can cause skin irritation in sensitive or allergic individuals. Lower concentrations, such as the 10 percent citronella oil in Avon’s Skin So Soft Bug Guard, don’t last as long, but if you’re leery about using chemicals or harsher oils, this may be an excellent compromise. As an added bonus, lemon eucalyptus oil also deters tick bites.

Picardin Mosquito Repellant

This active ingredient isn’t as long-lasting as DEET, but it’s more effective at keeping mosquitoes from landing on you. Fewer landings mean fewer bites. Products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced and Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus.

Victoria's Secret Bombshell for Mosquitos
Fashion Scents

Fragrances with mosquito-repelling reputations such as Victoria’s Secret Bombshell do a decent job of repelling mosquitoes, but the amount needed to avoid bites is too overpowering and the effects too short-lived to be of practical use (you might bomb away your friends and loved ones as well as the mosquitos).

Bottom line: When you’re on the road, plan ahead and stock up. A little protection actually works, and can keep you and your family safe and comfortable as you enjoy the outdoors.