Summer is the season for mosquitoes that colonize the entire US territory. Not only are these insects a nuisance, but they can be dangerous or even fatal to your health. In fact, female mosquitoes can contaminate you with viruses or parasites that cause serious diseases such as malaria, dengue, Zika or West Nile virus. These diseases are found in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
To avoid being bitten by these insects, there are several types of mosquito repellents that can be used. But beware, not all of them are effective. This was revealed by Immo Hansen and his team at the Laboratory of Molecular Vector Physiology at New Mexico State University, who have been conducting science experiments in the laboratory and in the field for more than ten years.
What are the best mosquito repellants?
Mosquito repellents are products that irritate a mosquito’s senses of smell, taste, or both. They can come in different forms: sprays, lotions, candles, streamers, and vaporizers. Some are of chemical origin, such as DEET or picaridin, and others are of plant origin, such as lemon or eucalyptus oil or certain essential oils.
DEET: The most effective product
According to the findings of Immo Hansen and his team, the best mosquito repellent is DEET. It is a chemical developed by the US military in the 1950s that irritates the smell and taste of mosquitoes. The higher its concentration, the longer it lasts – up to six hours.
Products containing DEET are recommended if one lives or travels in areas where there is a high risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases. These are located in Africa and Latin America for yellow fever, in Africa and Asia for malaria, in the tropics and subtropics for dengue, and in the Far East and Southeast Asia for Japanese encephalitis.
Picaridin: a promising alternative to DEET
A good alternative to DEET is picaridin, also called icaridin or KBR 3023. It is a synthetic product that can protect for six hours at a concentration of 20%. It mimics the repellent properties of black pepper. It is also odorless, non-greasy, and non-irritating to skin and eyes.
Lemon Eucalyptus Oil: An effective botanical product
An effective herbal product for repelling mosquitoes is lemon or eucalyptus oil, or OLE. It is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of Lemon Eucalyptus, a variety of eucalyptus native to Australia. The active ingredient is PMD or para-menthane-3,8-diol.
It is an organic compound that deceives insects’ sense of smell and prevents them from detecting their prey. It can protect for six hours, too. It is the only naturally occurring insect repellent that can be used safely on infants and pregnant women.
Certain Essential Oils: Products to be used with caution
Some essential oils have repellent properties, but not all. Immo Hansen and his team tested 20 different essential oils at 10% concentration in lotion. Here are the results:
- Clove oil and cinnamon oil are effective for more than an hour.
- Geraniol and 2-PEP are effective for about an hour.
- Lemon oil is only effective for half an hour.
If you want to make your own herbal product, you need to be careful with high concentrations which can irritate the skin.
What mosquito repellents should I avoid?
To protect yourself from mosquitoes, you need to choose a good mosquito repellent and follow a few simple rules. Don’t rely on products that don’t work or are useless. For example, mosquitoes are not attracted to colored bulbs, but rather to white light. Ultrasonic repellents don’t scare them, they can attract them. Mosquito bracelets do not cover the whole body. Dietary supplements (Vitamin B, garlic, etc.) are not effective and have no scientific evidence.
Experts also advise adopting some simple measures that can help control mosquitoes. Wearing long, loose-fitting clothing, minimizing time spent outdoors, installing screens on windows and eliminating standing water, which allows mosquitoes to breed are all precautions to adopt.
Plus, a study finally explains why some people are true mosquito magnets.