"Summer time is upon us, which means mosquitoes are all up on us."
(see what I did there? I'm coming for you Kanye)
Poorly phrased hip hop lyrics aside, mosquitoes have ALWAYS been one of the most annoying aspects of living in southern humid areas. But with cases of West Nile and Zika popping up, avoiding these disease carrying pests has become even more of a priority.
Without a doubt, the most effective mosquito repellent on the market is the man-made chemical DEET. And while the CDC considers it to be safe for use on humans, concern exists within the scientific community--and among consumers--regarding possible side effects from using DEET.
DEET can be absorbed through the skin and make its way into the blood stream. DEET is also a known solvent (able to dissolve plastic, rayon, spandex, painted/varnished surfaces, and fingernail polish to name a few). I don't know about you, but I don't feel warm and fuzzy about spraying something onto my skin that can strip the paint off my car.
Don't get me wrong, if I was in a mosquito-infested area with high rates of malaria and all I had was a DEET based repellent, I would use the DEET in a heartbeat. BUT if you aren't in that situation and you have other choices for insect repellents, I'd say it's worth a look!
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So what alternatives do we have?
"What about those 'mosquito repelling plants' in the garden department?"
Hold up, wait a minute, let me put some science in it. After scouring through all the peer reviewed research I could find, the consensus is: the plants--as is--don't deter mosquitoes from biting you. Lemon grass and other plants on the market labeled "mosquito repelling" are only effective if the leaves are crushed to release their oils, which would have to be applied to the skin in large quantities to have any effect on mosquitoes. Additionally, the grassy plants may actually act as day-shade hangout spots for mosquitoes who typically hang out on plants and under decks during the day. Meaning those plants may attract better than they repel. Yikes.
Likewise, studies show that clip-ons, candles, and torches provide little to no protection from mosquitoes as well.
"Well poop. What other option do we have?"
Never fear, friends. I've found 3 all natural options for you and was able to actually test out two of them personally. In no particular order, here are the 3 DEET free mosquito repellents I found that actually work!
This was THE best (and one of the only) DEET free repellents I found that was labelled as safe for children as young as 6 months (the main ingredient in the other two products I'm sharing below are for children age 3 and up). Its active ingredients are oils of soybean, citronella, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass, and geranium. I personally like the scent; it smells just like a citronella candle to me. Roland feels the smell is a bit strong, although definitely better than the DEET smell. We've only used it twice on Roman so far, but both times, he has come in from playing with no mosquito bites! Directions say to reapply every 2-3 hours. Just note that you will continue to smell like the repellent until you bathe.
The active ingredient here is 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus. It lasts for up to 6 hours from just one application! Now this one has what I'd call a strong smell. I know lots of people really love the smell of eucalyptus (if you are one such person, you might love this stuff), but for me, it's a bit on the strong side. Still, I would totally choose this over something with DEET. I used it while mowing and on another evening just lounging in the backyard. Both times, I did not get bit at all. Score! As with the other natural repellents listed here, you'll need to bathe and wash your clothes to get rid of the scent when you're done with your outdoor activities.
This is the one I wanted to try, but Target was sold out 🙁 It actually has the exact same active ingredients as the Cutter brand discussed above, so I would imagine they are equally effective. The consensus from over 3,000 Amazon reviews is that most people are very happy with it. If I had to choose between this one and the Cutter brand, I would honestly just go with whatever cost less and/or was readily available.
So there you have it! Now get outdoors and have some bite-free fun this summer!