D.C. Mosquito Squad, Sterling, VA 20164

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You may have noticed an increase in those pesky mosquitoes flying around looking for prey while disrupting your summer BBQ in the process.  Not only is the constant buzzing sound in your ear and the itchy bites enough to drive you crazy, mosquitoes are carriers of deadly diseases and unpleasant viruses you want to avoid.  There are a vast range of mosquito repellent products on the market all with a variety of ingredients, some natural and others synthetic, and the majority formulated for use on bare skin.

So what is really in that little aerosol can and roll on stick? 

DEET is a man-made compound developed to repel insects like mosquitoes, ticks and fleas and is in the majority of commercial repellents.  This ingredient is proven to decrease your chances of contracting a virus or disease dangerous to our health.  DEET was first developed by the US Army during WWII and has been used by the public since 1957. 

Little is known about how DEET actually works, but we do know that it doesn’t kill the animal.  Most recent research suggests it is the smell that repels them, sending them off in the opposite direction.   It is also one of the most tested consumer products on the market.  DEET can be safely applied directly to the skin or onto clothing for extra protection.  Various concentrations of DEET are available, but most of the insect repellents on the market contain 30-50%, providing you with protection from the annoyance of these insects for 3-6 hours.

You should never ingest the product and it is advised children under three months refrain from using the repellent.  For children three months and over, it is recommended you choose a repellent with no more than 10-30% concentration of DEET.  Adults and children should avoid regular and large doses of DEET. It is recommended that heavy-strength DEET should be reserved for foreign travelers who might be exposed to deadly diseases such as malaria.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suggests mosquito repellent products containing Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus can also deter and protect you from mosquitoes.

Picardin is a synthetic compound found in many mosquito repellent products and is believed to block mosquitoes from sensing their prey.  Oil of lemon eucalyptus on the other hand is a plant-based repellent that provides similar protection time to low concentrations of DEET products.

There are also plenty of natural repellents on the market claiming to work just as well as the man-made compounds.  Most of these non-toxic products are made up of volatile plant oils and include, but not limited to:

  • Citronella Oil
  • Cinnamon Oil
  • Castor Oil 
  • Peppermint Oil 
  • Castor Oil
  • Lemongrass Oil

It is important to note however, while natural repellents may be effective in deterring the mosquitoes from giving you those nasty bites and transmitting any diseases, they can also have similar adverse reactions to your skin.

Are there any mosquito repellents you should avoid spraying on your skin?

Products containing the ingredient Permethrin are only recommended for use on clothing, shoes, bed netting and camping gear.  Avoid spraying this product on your skin as it can cause mild skin irritation and burning. This chemical substance not only deters mosquitoes from landing on the site, but in most cases it will kill the mosquito as well as some other pests such as ticks and fleas.  When applied to clothing, Permethrin products generally provide protection for up to six hours and remarkably it remains effective even after the items have been laundered several times.

How about homemade mosquito repellents?

If DEET and man-made mosquito products are not your thing, there are healthier ways of protecting yourself by making homemade mosquito repellents. You can then control what goes into the product avoiding the use of chemicals and the unpleasant odor.

All you need to do is combine an essential oil (some of which are listed above) with a base of carrier oil or alcohol like olive oil, sunflower oil, witch hazel or vodka.  When making homemade mosquito repellents, be careful not to overdose on the essential oils as this could cause potential irritation to the skin and make sure the alcohol base you use is safe to apply to the skin.

Homemade mosquito repellents unfortunately don’t last as long as commercial products and you will need to reapply every hour.

Mosquito Repellent Safety

Regardless of which mosquito repellent you choose to use, always ensure you read the labels and follow the directions carefully.  Whether the product is natural or man-made, pregnant women should take care to avoid exposures to repellents when practical and discuss any products with their doctor.  Children may experience adverse reactions to repellents so ensure they are safe for your child’s age and only use small doses.

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