There’s nothing quite like relaxing outside on a warm summer night. That is, until the unmistakable buzz of the dreaded mosquito. 

Not only is a mosquito bite itchy and sometimes painful, but those pesky little creatures can also carry a variety of diseases that pose a threat to your health. Mosquito-borne diseases in the United States include West Nile Virus, Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, and most recently, the first cases of malaria to be contracted in the U.S. were reported in Florida and Texas for the first time in 20 years. 

That’s why protecting yourself from mosquito bites is so important. So how do you stop mosquitoes from biting? There are several ways, from approved repellents to more natural options and even some good old-fashioned common sense too. 

The best mosquito repellents

When it comes to mosquito repellents, there are many options available to consumers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a list of active ingredients that are safe and effective to prevent mosquito bites. When searching for a repellent, use one that contains one of the following:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin 
  • IR3535
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) -- not for use in children under three years of age
  • Para-menthane-diol (PMD) -- this lab-created version OLE is not for use in children under three years of age
  • 2-undecanone

Using mosquito repellents safely

While insect repellents are recommended and approved for use in adults and children, there are some safety precautions you should follow. 

  • Never apply repellent to a child’s hands. Be sure to wash your child’s hands when returning indoors.
  • Never spray repellent onto a child’s face. Instead, spray onto your hands and then spread it on your child’s face, avoiding the eyes, nose, and mouth. 
  • For children under three years of age, do not use products that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD).
  • Always follow instructions on the label and be sure to reapply as indicated.
  • Be sure to always store repellents in a safe place, away from children.

Natural mosquito repellents

To protect yourself from mosquito bites, DEET and picaridin are the safest and most effective methods for anyone over two months of age. If you prefer natural ingredients, there are some products that are thought to repel mosquitoes and prevent mosquito bites. Those include OLE and PMD as described above.

Other products include geraniol, catnip oil, cinnamon oil, and others. If you prefer to opt for natural repellents, this article offers options that may help.  

Plants that repel mosquitos

While not as effective as EPA-approved repellents, you might consider adding some plants to your yard that will add a touch of beauty and perhaps ward off some of those pesky bugs. 

Some plants that mosquitoes dislike include:

  • citronella
  • lemon grass
  • catnip
  • herbs such as lime basil, sage, mint, and rosemary
  • flowering plants such as marigold and lavender

You can learn more about other mosquito-repelling plants in this article.

Other tips for preventing mosquito bites

In addition to using EPA-approved repellents, try the following to reduce your risk of getting bitten. 

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing that covers your arms and legs. 
  • Consider treating clothing and gear such as boots or tents with 0.5% permethrin to repel bugs. Never use permethrin directly on skin.
  • Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Get rid of any standing water in your yard, where mosquitoes can breed.
  • Cover strollers or carriages with mosquito netting.

How to treat mosquito bites

Despite our best efforts to avoid them, sometimes those sneaky little pests will find a way to bite you. Fortunately, those itchy bumps will go away on their own in a few days. In the meantime, follow these tips to make yourself more comfortable.

  • Avoid scratching the bite.
  • Apply an ice pack or moist cloth to a bite for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and itch.
  • To relieve the itch, use lotions or creams such as calamine lotion, an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, or a paste made from baking soda and water.
  • If you don’t have a lotion or cream, apply pressure directly to the bite for 10 seconds, or place an ice cube on the bite for 30 seconds to stop the itch.

Find the right repellent for you

The EPA has a great website to help you find the repellants that are safe and effective for you and your family.

Be sure to check out other posts on our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog for more ways to keep you and your family safe and healthy. 

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.