Tips on avoiding mosquito bites
Just picture it … a balmy evening in the backyard, BBQ sizzling, kids playing happily and cool drink in hand. Perfect except for the whine of a dive bombing mosquito. Second only on the irritation ladder to the lone mosquito in the dark who won't let you get to sleep at night.
It seems everyone has a solution to the mosquito problem that they swear works. Bug zappers don't necessarily work because mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide humans breathe out, not to light, so they just ignore them.
Here's a few remedies for you to try:
- Growing herbs can help repel mosquitos. Basil, rosemary and marigolds are often quoted as working. But you need to crush the leaves or burn them on the BBQ to release the oil inside. Just having them in the yard isn't enough, the scent needs to be released.
- Eating a lot of Vitamin B, and especially B1, is supposed to help but there is no medical evidence to prove that vitamin B secreted through the skin works in repelling the annoying beasties.
- Apparently if you eat bananas, mosquitos will be attracted to you. Urban lore says mosquitoes are attracted to the scent of bananas on your skin. Again, no medical evidence to prove (or disprove) this one.
- Citronella oil has been used in candles for a long time as a natural alternative to chemical repellents. Now you can also get waterproof silicone bands impregnated with citronella oil that you can wear to repel mosquitoes naturally.
- Dark coloured clothing is said to attract mosquitoes. Light coloured clothing has the added summer benefit of reflecting heat and keeping you cooler.
- Garlic has been credited with all sorts of medical properties so it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that it is also claimed to repel mosquitoes. You can rub it on your skin (as long as you don't mind being on your own at parties) but eating garlic is far easier, although garlic breath is inevitable.
- Perfumes and scented lotions and potions are said to attract mosquitoes. Use non scented moisturisers, soaps, shampoo etc and you may have fewer unwanted visitors.
- Other oils said to have repellent properties include tea tree oil, eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon oregano, jojoba, lemon basil, neem, lemon geranium, catnip, witch hazel and pennyroyal.
- Mosquito coils are a memory of my childhood, slowing smoking away under the table while we ate. My brothers and I used to argue over who would get to light them. I remember the smell and Dad telling us not to kick it over. They weren't much use when the wind blew and the smoke disappeared over the horizon.
There are plenty of chemical based repellents on the market. The active ingredient in most of them is DEET. In small doses DEET is deemed safe but there are health warnings on all packs and they should be used in strict accordance with the instructions at all times.
Common sense has a few suggestions to offer:
- Cover up; make it hard for a mosquito to bite you. Long sleeves and pants help. A mosquito may simply bite someone with smooth legs because it is easier than biting someone with hairy legs.
- Don't go outside at dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Plan your outdoor living earlier or later to avoid them at their peak.
- Don't leave puddles of water around your home. Mosquitoes breed incredibly fast in stagnant water and before you know it, you will have swarms of them. Sweep away puddles, empty the trays under flower pots, fix leaky pipes and make sure water tanks are installed correctly with screens over all access points.
- Don't use sunscreen with insect repellent in it. You need to apply sunscreen regularly and in far greater amounts than chemical based repellents. Apply sunscreen as directed before going outdoors and then use repellent when you are outside and in mosquito country.
Regardless of what you do, Murphy's Law says that at some stage you will be bitten. A great new clinically trialled gadget to get rid of the itch and sting of a bite is a Mosquito Click. At the click of a button, it gives a small electric shock (which doesn't hurt). This stops the itch and another click or two can reduce swelling as well.
Children can react to a mosquito bite far more than adults and it can certainly ruin their fun as well as keep them awake at nights, so look after them and make sure they are protected.
Enjoy the summer!