Mosquitoes love me and leave large welts on my skin.
Thus, I’m always interested in the latest technologies to treat the bites and minimize the number of mosquito bites. Mosquito bites aren’t just uncomfortable and itchy; they can also transmit a number of infectious diseases that could pose serious threats to your health and wellness such as last year’s outbreak of the Zika virus in Miami.
Here are a few tips for finding the safest and most effective insect repellents to keep you and your family protected.
DEET vs. Natural Insect Repellents
Citronella candles have been one of the most popular forms of natural mosquito repellent for decades, but a recent test by Consumer Reports found that, citronella is ineffective at deterring mosquitoes. Instead, they found that using an oscillating fan when sitting outdoors is a better way to keep bugs at bay. If you’ll be trekking through the woods, though, a fan won’t work. Studies have shown that spray-on lemon eucalyptus oil is nearly as effective as DEET, which is still considered to be the most effective insect repellent (Entomology Today).
However, DEET should not be used on children under age 2, as it has been linked with several adverse side effects, including skin irritation, rash, nausea and vomiting. Because of this, many people look to natural alternatives like lemon eucalyptus.
Despite these potential side effects, though, they do not outweigh the risks of contracting Zika virus, West Nile virus or malaria if bitten by a mosquito that is a carrier for these diseases. Right now, Zika is a big concern all over the country, especially in South Florida.
Until recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed Miami-Dade County as a yellow (cautionary) area for Zika. Although that has since been lifted, the risk of contracting the virus could be higher here than in other parts of the country. Therefore, it’s best to err on the side of caution and use the most effective insect repellent possible.
Products to Repel Mosquitoes
There are a variety of devices such as bracelets that claim to repel insects without requiring you to spray your skin, but, like citronella candles, these devices have been shown to be largely ineffective (Entomology Today).
Research also shows that using a two-in-one product that combines SPF with insect repellent is not enough to keep your skin protected from the sun. Moreover, these types of products could increase the amount of DEET that is absorbed into your skin, thereby increasing the potential for adverse side effects. It is preferable to use a separate SPF and insect repellent rather than a combination product.
How To Treat a Bug Bite
If you do get a bug bite, the best way to calm both itching and inflammation is to use a topical product like FixMySkin. Placing ammonia on the bite will temporarily stop the itch but will not treat the inflammation. Try not to scratch the bite because it will itch more and can become infected.
How To Get Rid of Mosquitoes in Your Yard
The most important thing to do to keep mosquitoes away is to eliminate their breeding ground. Get rid of standing water in pots, plants or low areas on the patio, and clear out dead leaves. Planting plants such as lemongrass and lemon eucalyptus may help.
Miami-Dade County has a program where they will come and spray your yard to decrease mosquitoes at no cost to you.
Several patients have told me they get great results with a product that attracts and kills mosquitoes called the Mosquito Magnet, though it was not studied by Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports did show that the battery-powered diffuser that blows out geraniol is not effective.
Following these recommendations can help you survive this warm, wet mosquito-laden summer.
Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.