Repelling Mosquitoes: 4 Proven Ways to Prevent Their Bites


Scratching at a few more mosquito bites than usual this summer? You're not imagining things.

The mosquitoes are buzzing in more droves than usual, making it highly uncomfortable to be outside without long sleeves, pants, and a supersized can of insect repellent. So what gives? And, most important, what can you do to keep these pesky parasites from landing on you and your loved ones in search of their next meal?

The Perfect Storm: Why Mosquitoes Are So Bad This Year

While we all enjoyed a drier-than-usual April, the rain that soon followed created the perfect conditions for irksome skeeters to multiply… and multiply they have! According to Edward Walker, an entomology professor at Michigan State University, the population this year is enormous – particularly with a species called summer floodwater mosquitoes (Source: Bridge Michigan).

While the males prefer the nectar of plants, the females feast on animals and humans, but not before laying hundreds of eggs as many as six times during their three-week lifespan.

Thanks to April's dry spell, the eggs just kept on accumulating, but not hatching. That is, until the flood of rain that soon followed encouraged the growing mob to hatch in far larger clusters than usual. Meanwhile, more mosquitoes buzzing about naturally lead to more eggs – and future bloodthirsty buzzers.

Beyond the Itch: Is There Cause for Concern?

As if the red bites they leave behind aren't troublesome enough, mosquitoes (including those prevalent here in Michigan) carry many diseases, including West Nile Virus (WNV), Jamestown Canyon Virus (JCV), and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

Just one bite from an infected mosquito, and you could contract one of these viruses, which mosquitoes can pick up from preying on birds before transmitting to humans and furry pets.

“The symptoms of mosquito-borne viral infections are fairly non-specific and typically include fever, headache, and malaise,” explains Dr. Christopher Ledtke, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. “If this spectrum of symptoms occurs without another explanation in the summer months than these infections should be a consideration.”

4 Tips for Avoiding Mosquitoes and Diseases

Suit Up. Although it seems counterintuitive depending on the temperature, long sleeves and pants are one of the most effective ways to combat these determined nippers. Focusing on light colors can make you less visible to mosquitoes, while spraying your clothing with insect repellant can add even more layers of protection. As an added bonus, these same measures will also help you avoid ticks, as well as overexposure to the sun.

Use Specific Types of Insect Repellent. Bug sprays containing DEET, citronella, catnip, and/or lemon eucalyptus oil, Picaridin, 2-undecanone, p-Menthane-3,8-diol, and IR3535 can all help safely deter mosquitoes, though combining with a layer of clothing is your best bet for protection.

Stay Dry. Mosquitoes breed near water – so anything from kiddie pools to rain barrels is an open invitation for these prolific breeders to multiply. Do your best to keep any pots or containers that may be collecting water either covered or drained.

Keep Pets Indoors. Though you shouldn’t ease up on those daily walks, which are just as beneficial for you as well, don’t let Max or Daisy linger outdoors for too long this summer, especially near wet areas where mosquitoes tend to swarm.

Is DEET Safe?

On the fence about DEET? The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves its use for people of all ages, including kids. Though it can produce a rash for some people, this decades-old repellant ingredient has not been shown to produce any negative health effects.

In fact, the rare reports you may have heard involving seizures typically stem back to consuming DEET. As long as you're not drinking it, it's perfectly safe to spray on your skin. For this reason, do store it away from small children and pets. Otherwise, you can scratch DEET off your list of concerns. 

Catnip: The Next Alternative DEET?

New research from Lund University in Sweden shows that catnip – a feline-favorite herb often used in cat toys – may be an equally effective alternative to insect repellents, including those containing DEET. The active ingredient in catnip, called nepetalactone, activates an irritant receptor in insects, including mosquitoes, which can quickly deter these pesky bugs.

While you can grow this mint-related herb right in your garden and rub its leaves on your skin, catnip essential oil may prove an easier and stronger alternative.

Symptoms? Ask A Nurse!

If you have immediate questions about your specific symptoms, call Munson Healthcare’s Ask-a-Nurse at 231-935-0951. A registered nurse is standing by to give expert health advice 24 hours a day. No insurance is required to use this free service.

Ask-a-Nurse   231-935-0951

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