Say Buzz Off to Mosquitos This Summer

by Dr. Jessica Morgan, MD

Summertime in Texas brings longer, sunnier days, countless outdoor activities, and those relentless mosquitos! Here’s how to reduce your chances of becoming a mosquito buffet and what to do to bring relief to annoying, painful, and itchy bites. Mosquitos can carry and spread deadly diseases such as West Nile Virus, so it’s important to know how to protect yourself and your family from the pesky critters.

Prevention can include use of repellents such as these described below:

DEET. This is the most commonly used active ingredients in mosquito repellents. When used excessively and inappropriately, it can be harmful to you and your child’s neurological system. We recommend using products with lower percentages of DEET such as OFF! For Families and following the directions for use.   Frighteningly, some disease-carrying mosquitoes are growing resistant to DEET. This DEET-resistant trait can even be passed down to offspring.

Natural Alternatives to DEET:

Picaridin. A chemical derived from pepper. Some studies have found it to be just as effective as DEET and a small number showed it to be even more effective. You can find picaridin products at most drugstores.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus. This is the only plant-based repellent recommended by the CDC. Look for products containing at least 26% oil of lemon eucalyptus. These products can be effective for up to 3 hours longer than repellants containing lower amounts of DEET (7%).

IR3535. This ingredient found in Avon Skin So Soft is a synthetic version of amino acids found in vitamin B, and has been used for decades in Europe.

Other plant-based repellents. A 2004 study in the Journal of Medical Entomology reviewed several plant based repellents. The study found soybean oil to be effective for up to 7 hours, similar to products containing 15% DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535. Geraniol (geranium oil) warded off bugs for up to 5 hours. Citronella and neem oil worked for up to 3 hours before needing to be reapplied.

Other strategies to elude mosquitos include wearing white or light colored clothing, avoid floral fragrances, avoid being outside around dusk or dawn, and wearing long-sleeves and pants when spending time outdoors.

So you’ve tried all these strategies and the stubborn pests, still found you?! Here are some tips to get relief from redness and itching caused by mosquito bites:

  • Put it on ice: Ice a bite as soon as possible to prevent inflammation. About 10-15 minutes should do.
  • Hit up the drugstore: For over-the-counter itch relief, apply topical hydrocortisone, Benadryl, or calamine lotion as needed.
  • Go green: Aloe can assist in healing and calming inflammation caused by bites.
  • Raid the kitchen cabinet: Use honey to help soothe bites. Try a baking soda and water paste.
  • Itch-free with tea tree: Tea tree oil not only has antiseptic properties, but It can also be anti-inflammatory and help control itching. Try Burt’s Bees Bug Bite Relief which contains tea tree, lavender and lemongrass oils to aid in reducing discomfort.