If you’re not already hearing the high-pitched buzz and feeling the itch from the vampire of the insect world, just wait a few more weeks. Americans should brace themselves for an itchy spring and summer, because experts are predicting a heavy mosquito season due to the combination of drought in some parts and warmer winters in other parts of the country.
Today is World Malaria Day, and according to the World Health Organization, malaria caused an estimated 216 million illnesses and 655,000 deaths, mostly children under 5 years in Africa in 2010 alone. Thankfully, malaria was mostly eliminated in the United States in the 1950s, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency still warn Americans to arm themselves with mosquito repellant to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases.
A far cry from the heavy chemical sprays of yore, insect repellant comes in just about any form you can imagine: lotions, botanical or natural remedies, clip-on fans, wipes, burnable incense coils, and even wristbands.
The CDC and EPA recommend repellents with the following ingredients, which have demonstrated to be efficient and long-lasting: DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus, and permethrin, which is intended for application to clothing and gear, but not directly to skin. Read the CDC’s recommendations on insect repellent.
Here is a smattering of insect repellent products and home remedies for to stay bug free:
Military Grade: Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion
was developed for the US Military and tested in the bug-ridden jungles of Central America. The product claims to repel mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies and annoying chigger for 12 full hours and resist perspiration, rain, and water splashes.
Wristband Warrior: If you want to repel mosquitoes like a superhero deflects bullets off their wristbands, the various incarnations of bug repellent wristbandsmay be your solution. Slipping bracelets on your child’s wrist or ankle may be easier than tackling them long enough to slather lotion or spray before they run out and play.
Dry Rub: Don’t ask why, but folk wisdom suggests that mosquitoes hate Bounce dryer sheets. Rub a dryer sheet such as Bounce on your clothes and body, and keep a dryer sheet in your pocket, and the mosquitoes will leave you alone. Some people swear by it, some think it’s a hoax, but at least you will smell better than a can of roach spray.
Southern Solution: Ask any Southern woman how she survives the Gulf Coast summers and still looks so young and dewy (I recommend this exact phrasing), and she will say Avon Skin-So-Soft. Originally marketed as a bath oil, Avon has since taken note and sells Skin-So-Soft as a bug repellent with their Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard line and as a combination sunscreen and repellent. Many repellents are not recommended for children younger than age 3, but Skin-So-Soft is safe. They even have a “disappearing blue color” formula so kids can see where they apply it to the skin.
Natural Predator: For those who prefer nature’s defense against mosquito’s, oil of lemon eucalyptus is nature’s mosquito kryptonite, and is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. This repellent is top-rated by Consumer Search.
Terminal Towlettes: Most heavy duty commercial sprays contain DEET to terminate mosquitoes, the chemical compound thought to be the most effective in repelling mosquitoes. If you want the fire power of DEET, but not the mess and stink of sprays, these towlettes
are easy and convenient to pack in your bag, keep in your car (without worrying about leaving an aerosol can in the hot car) or in your purse.
When using insect repellents, the EPA recommends the following precautions:
- Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label.) Do not use repellents under clothing.
- Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
- Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using sprays, do not spray directly on face—spray on hands first and then apply to face.
- Do not allow children to handle the product. When using on children, apply to your own hands first and then put it on the child. You may not want to apply to children’s hands.
- Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy application and saturation are generally unnecessary for effectiveness.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also, wash treated clothing before wearing it again. (This precaution may vary with different repellents—check the product label.)
- If you or your child get a rash or other bad reaction from an insect repellent, stop using immediately, wash with mild soap and water, and call a local poison control center for further guidance. If you go to a doctor because of the repellent, take the repellent with you to show the doctor.
Note that the label for products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus specifies that they should not to be used on children under the age of three years. Other than those listed above, EPA does not recommend any additional precautions for using registered repellents on children or on pregnant or lactating women.