Summer Safety Tips

Alternative Mosquito Repellent Options

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By Earlexia Norwood, M.D.

The sun on your face. Warm breezes. Water play. Roasting marshmallows by a campfire. Outdoor grilling. They’re some of summer’s highlights, until mosquitoes crash the party. When that happens, well, it’s enough to make one wish the season of fun and sun away – or make a beeline for the indoors.

It’s not just the annoying itch and red bumps that the blood-sucking party poopers bring on, but also more serious health concerns such as West Nile, dengue, malaria and Zika infections.

The only hope – other than covering up head to toe – is a reliable mosquito repellent.

What are mosquito repellent options?
DEET, a common pesticide, is considered the most effective and longest-lasting repellent, but the potential for chemical toxicity worries some, especially when it comes to children. It should not be used on anyone younger than 3 months old. The EPA has deemed DEET toxic to some birds and fish, but declared it safe for mammals.

EPA-approved or not, the search for a better mosquito repellent alternatives goes on and the market for more natural approaches is buzzing.

Here are a few mosquito avoidance remedies, most of them all natural. But remember, even natural things can be harmful if misused so don’t overdo it, especially on children. Also, natural repellents – often made with ingredients such citronella, lemon, eucalyptus, picaridin (a pepper derivative) and other plants – require more frequent applications, typically every 1-3 hours.

Also, keep in mind that mosquito protection is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone has unique body chemistry, from blood type (Type O seems to be mosquito-preferred), level of uric acid (high levels attract mosquitoes), the amount of CO2 a person emits (a mosquito magnet), propensity to sweat (also appetizing to mosquitoes).

Whatever the level of mosquito attractiveness, consider these DEET alternatives:

  • Mix up your own DIY essential oil repellent. Basic ingredients include citronella, lemon, and peppermint. Some have witch hazel or garlic. (The video link below contains a recipe. Many others are available online.)
  • Look for off-the-shelf sprays with ingredients such as citronella, geranium, rosemary, wintergreen, picaridin.
  • Consider Thermacell, a small handheld electronic device that emits a vapor of synthetic pyrethrum, which mimics chrysanthemums, into the air, creating a barrier covering about a 12-foot-by-12-foot area. It’s not natural, but it has its believers. The vapor repellent is released when a butane cartridge heats a pad containing the pyrethrum.
  • Add mosquito repellant plants to your landscaping – citronella grass, African or French marigolds, basil, lemon thyme, catnip, sage, pennyroyal, rosemary, geranium and lavender.
  • Research wrist bands – some contain mosquito repelling oils such as citronella. Consumer tests haven’t found these effective, but some users disagree.
  • Try rubbing dryer sheets on skin and clothes. Golfers hang a sheet from their belts. There is limited science but lots of anecdotal support for this method.
  • Go old school with Avon Skin So Soft. Apply it solo or mix it with rubbing alcohol. Or buy it pre-made off the shelf.
  • Turn to garlic. It warded off vampires and may have the same effect on mosquitoes. Rub on skin or by take as a pill. Garlic, and B1 too, are believed to stimulate a body odor that repels mosquitoes.

A few final words of advice: To lessen the need for protection, control mosquitoes by eliminating areas of standing water, a mosquito breeding ground. And in high-risk areas such as forests, cover up.

Watch a recent segment of “Live in the D” on WDIV featuring Dr. Norwood talking about this topic and sharing an essential oil recipe: http://www.clickondetroit.com/live-in-the-d/all-natural-mosquito-repellents