Mosquitoes are known to pass blood-borne illnesses from one victim to another. They are a major health hazard and are responsible for the transmission of yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis, and many other serious diseases. In parts of the world where mosquito-transmitted diseases are not common, it is the bite itself that presents the greatest difficulty. More infants and children are bitten by mosquitoes than by any other insect.
Here are some tips for avoiding mosquitoes:
- Mosquitoes are attracted to things that remind them of nectar or mammal flesh. When outdoors, wear light clothing that covers most of the body, keeping as much skin and hair covered as practical. Avoid bright, floral colors. Khaki, beige, and olive have no particular attraction for mosquitoes.
- They are also attracted by some body odors, and for this reason they choose some individuals over others in a crowd. Avoid fragrances in soaps, shampoos, and lotions.
- Many species of mosquito prefer biting from dusk until dawn. The problem is worse when the weather is hot or humid. Avoid playing outdoors during the peak biting times in your area.
- Try to stay away from still water.
- People who are highly allergic should avoid vacationing in the Everglades.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using an insect repellent on exposed areas of skin. The most effective compounds are DEET (N,N-diethyl meta-toluamide), picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus (Repel) I prefer the safe, non-toxic, plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus. It does cause irritation if it gets in the eyes, but has otherwise proven safe. It has not been tested, though, on children under age 3. DEET-containing products should not be used on children under 2 months of age.
- Don’t apply insect repellent under clothes, or too much may be absorbed. Also, avoid applying repellent to portions of the hands that are likely to come in contact with the eyes and mouth.
- 30% is the maximum concentration of DEET recommended for infants and children. Lower concentrations have not been shown to be safer.
- The concentration of an insect repellent affects how long it will last, not how effective it will be when applied.
- DEET should not be used in a product that combines an insect repellent and a sunscreen (so that the sunscreen can be reapplied as needed).
- Other ingredients, such as IR3535 (Avon-Skin-So-Soft) or combinations of plant oils (Bite Blocker Xtreme or Burt’s Bees All Natural Herbal) can prevent bites, but not as effectively as DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
Reviewed by: Khanh-Van Le-Bucklin, Rebecca Hicks
Last reviewed: December 12, 2008