The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Can You Keep Mosquitoes Away?

To keep mosquitoes away, you need a good repellent. DEET works, but it also can melt plastic. Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus could be alternatives.
Public domain from image #18749 credit James Gathany

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, or so the song goes. (Here’s the magnificent Ella Fitzgerald singing it.) But summertime also brings its share of biting insects, and keeping them away is not always easy. Mosquitoes can carry disease, including West Nile virus, so it makes sense to protect yourself as well as possible. DEET is the standard, but not everyone wants to use it. How else can you keep mosquitoes away?

Repellents to Keep Mosquitoes Away:

Q. I killed a mosquito last night, and that got me thinking about repellents. I have some concerns about DEET, which seems to be the standard.

A few years ago, I was camping with friends. One of my companions slathered DEET on herself and then poured wine into a plastic glass. Her fingerprints are permanently etched into the wine glass.

We’re not talking about disposables here. These cups are thick, dishwasher-safe, clear, reusable glasses. I’m hesitant to use a product that etches plastic.

I’ve had reasonable success by wearing a neckerchief permeated with permethrin and applying picaridin repellent.

What DEET Does:

A. DEET is an effective insect repellent that can certainly keep mosquitoes away. Unfortunately, it can behave a little like a solvent. It may dissolve some items such as plastic watch crystals, paint, nail polish and synthetic fibers. DEET may also harm certain breathable fabrics.

Both Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggest that oil of lemon eucalyptus and picaridin can each serve as an alternative to DEET. They are quite effective repellents. Brand names include Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel Picaridin.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    Use Vic’s vapor rub, the mosquitos hate th smell. Use it and or coconut oil after a bite to help relieve itching

    In regards to Robin’s comment about a product bought from Amazon; recently after some investigating, I found that it’s been proven that Amazon has had some counterfeit products being sold from third party’s.

    This could explain results that vary greatly, I’ve found with among ratings for the same bought product. It’s advised to pay attention to who is actually selling the product. Depending on what it is, I’ve been buying directly from the manufacturer to ensure it’s authentic. Will continue to use Amazon for other things.

    For over 35 years I have been taking Vitamin B 1 – Thiamin- 100 mg. every day to keep mosquitos away. I heard it on The People’s Pharmacy. I play golf. The ladies are spraying repellant all over themselves. When I lived in Raleigh I used it from April to November, but now I am in Florida I use it every day. The B-1 puts out an odor, we cannot detect, that mosquitos don’t like it and keep away. Vets suggested it to dogs to keep the pests away. When my grand daughter was 4 she got all bit up playing in her yard. My daughter started her on 50 mg. and after that she didn’t have a problem. I have suggested this to others and they too find it works, the bugs fly around me but don’t land on me.

    I apply listerine to my arms and head before I work outside. I have never been bit when I do this. I know it will last for a least three hours.

    We are sailors and when we were keeping our boat in SC we learned about cactus juice. It is quite effective at keeping mosquitoes and other stinging insects off and yet is a safe natural skin product.

    Just tried the blue listerine Epson salt stale beer solution around doors but not effective for large areas and get costly beside waste of beer any other ideas especially safe for a pet essential oils?

    I use either coconut milk or coconut oil. I originally put it on to see if it helped protect from the sun and I believe (no proof except no damage seen from being out in sun a lot) it helped. I then noticed no ticks, of which we are overrun with in my yard, were to be seen and after that, no mosquitoes were biting. They hover, but they don’t land.

    I feed the oil to my outdoor cats (twice a day) instead of the toxic chemicals and they are tick and flea free also.

    There is a lady close by with a biology related PhD that sells a product called “Tick Warriors” commercially that is coconut based.

    Amber Listerine antiseptic has eucalyptus oil in it so I keep a spray bottle with a 50% solution mixed with water hand when planning to go outside in the grass, or at dusk when the mozzies are around.

    Interestingly, Deep Woods Off is a DIY solution for fixing clouded headlights. Put it on a rag (not too much), and wipe the headlight. Clears right up. Now I know why it works: deet is a solvent!

    I started taking nutritional yeast to control my allergies. It took about 4-6 weeks to kick in but it does a good job of allergy protection. A surprising side effect is repelling mosquitos. I am one of those people that mosquitos can smell a mile away but not since I have been taking 2 teaspoons daily of premium nutritional yeast seasoning flakes. I can now go out in the early morning and late evening without being bitten. I am 66 and wish I had discovered nutritional yeast years ago.

    We have had success with using B 100 regularly during the summer. It was effective when my daughter went to camp, and all the, except for her, were covered with bites. I was told it was the B2 but I am not certain. The B50 may have worked as well.

    I am hesitant to use any of the commercial mosquito repellents. I’ve tried a skin softening repellant, and that helps but what do you do for in the house? Especally when sleeping, and they are buzzing around you. I’ve put a nice smelling repellant on, and that works ok but mosquitos live for 10 days. My son works at a big discount hardware store and was walking around the store checking things and found a light bulb that attracts bugs. A customer pointed one out and said that one works, so he bought it and put it in a standing lamp that we hardly use. It emits a soft blue hue. It does work. I got one for my bedroom from Amazon. Read the reviews first, and it got 4 and 5 stars. It works well. They cost $15 or more but are worth it. The bulbs can also be switched to a regular LED bulb. We live in Fl, and this year the bugs of all kinds are here in throngs. I opened the front door to get the mail, and 2 mosquitoes flew in.

    Read the reviews for: Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel Picaridin on Amazon. At least one includes a photo of a man who used it and went for a hike. Results must vary greatly, but after seeing his arm, I won’t buy any of them.

    They used to eat me alive till I started taking garlic, 1000 mg a day–just garlic oil. Worked like a charm and no odor! It also works for my husband.

    While camping or at your own backyard BBQ, light a vanilla scented candle. Not sure why it works but it does. Within 10 minutes of lighting even the cheapest of vanilla candles the mosquitoes will run to the neighbor’s yard!

    Many years ago I was a nurse in the Army Reserve. For a couple of summers we ran a clinic in support of survival training for enlisted. One young man came into the clinic complaining of numbness of the lips and mouth. We observed that the front pocket of his BDU’s was wet. He’d been carrying a bottle of DEET, which the Army handed out for mosquito repellant, and the lid had come off, soaking his pocket; it was in contact with the skin underneath. We called the Poison Control hotline and were informed that some side-effects of DEET can be neurological problems. We cleaned his skin and took him to the small local hospital for follow up. He recovered, but I’ve never used DEET since!

    While working in Alaska several years ago I was introduced to a butane device that really works in keeping mosquitoes away. You can find it online or a local sporting goods store. It’s small enough to clip on your belt or place on a picnic table. Every one around you will be protected. Go online to “YouTube,” and learn how to make your own refills for pennies.

    I am going to be visiting my son in the jungles of Thailand during rainy season. Repellants with Deet sound scary, but so does West Nile!! Is it worth it to risk temporary use of a strong bug repellent when considering malaria, encephalitis and other mosquito born diseases as real possibilities?

    Try this DIY insect repellent: 2 tbs witchhazel, 2 tbs grapeseed oil, 55 drops eucalyptus essential oil, 15 drops cedarwood essential oil, 15 drops lavender essential oil, 15 drops rosemary essential oil. I mix it in small spray bottles. One is for our porch lounging area: another hangs on our gate to remind us to use it before going further. We live on 5 wooded acres with lots of mosquitoes, and this smells nice, feels good on the skin, and also, most imporantly, works! And no questionable chemicals. The oils can be pricey but can also be used for different things.

    Both lemon eucalyptus and picaridin have worked for me. I use both the spray and the lotion. DEET is good to polish your auto’s headlights with. Helps remove minor scratches sometimes.

    I use fabric softeners sheets tucked in a headband and in a shirt pocket to ward off mosquitoes when I’m working in the garden. This works great against gnats also!

    I used “Bounce” softener to successfully repel a large wasp bothering me at under-car work. But I worry about long skin exposure.

    I had luck with a solution of 50% white vinegar and 50% H2O. After about 30 minutes I had to reapply, and I smelled like an easter egg, but it worked.

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