The Fourth of July is the holiday that really kicks off summer. If you're celebrating outdoors with family and friends alongside a fire or fireworks, odds are you’ll be spending it with a horde of mosquitoes, too. And now with the Zika virus fresh on everyone's minds, it's even more important to double-down on your protection. (New research from the University of Miami says mosquito control is the most important and effective way to control the virus.)
To make the most of the holiday weekend, take note of these effective mosquito repellents suggested by Mike Merchant, PhD, a professor and extension urban entomologist. Whether you’re looking for sprays to cover yourself or your yard, the most effective commercial repellent, or chemical-free natural alternatives, we’ve got all your bases covered. These options will keep your skin protected long past Independence Day.
The best way to protect yourself from mosquitoes is to apply repellent to your skin, because you get full, even coverage. “Developed by the Army in the 1950s, DEET is still the most effective personal repellent on the market, providing complete protection for longer periods of time than other methods,” Merchant says. For those of you who’d rather be eaten alive than put up with the smell or sticky feel of bug spray, check out the newer formulations.
“If you have safety concerns regarding the chemicals in commercial sprays—some people have gotten sick from it, but it’s usually due to overuse or misuse of the product—try Picaridin,” Merchant advises. The synthetic compound is a low-odor repellent that keeps off insects and ticks.
“Lemon oil of eucalyptus is an organic repellant that’s natural and non-synthetic,” Merchant says. It’s derived from the leaves of the Eucalyptus citriodora tree, so it does have a bit of an odor to it, and it lasts about six hours, so you’ll need to re-apply more frequently than sprays with DEET.
Okay, so you may be skeptical to try something from Avon, but don’t knock it till you try its bug-repelling capabilities for yourself. Originally formulated as a lotion, Avon turned their Skin So Soft into a repellent after customers raved about its multi-purpose functionality, according to Merchant. Plus, the lotion has SPF 30, aloe, and vitamin E.
Area repellents are your next line of defense. “Citronella candles do offer some protection, but it depends on the wind and how many you have burning at a time,” Merchant says. “Basically you need to have a wall of smoke over the area you’re picnicking or BBQing.” And if a cloud of citronella isn’t your style, there are less obtrusive alternatives.
“One of the things I do in my yard if I’m entertaining outside is I’ll go out the morning or the afternoon before, and fog with a little hand-held thermal fogger,” Merchant says. Found at most hardware and garden center stores, these propane-generated foggers heat up insecticide and emit a dense white fog. “Run the fog through the foliage in your backyard, and in the corners and eaves of your house to provide temporary reduction of mosquitos for up to a day," he adds. The only caveat is these suckers are powerful. They kill all small insects.
If you’re in an area susceptible to the West Nile, spray around your doorways and eaves of your house with a residual insecticide. This kind of treatment lasts longer, giving you several weeks of protection.
There are a number of sprays you can buy. The key is to look for products ending with the suffix “thrin,” so bisenthrin (pictured above from amazon.com) and cyfluthrin.
Go here for more information on Pyrethroid Insecticide sprays before you buy and spray!