Mosquitoes can be irritating to have to deal with. I’ve never attracted them as much as some others in my family do (apparently because I have type A blood, I am less likely to attract mosquitoes. Those of you with type O blood, however, are twice as likely as I am. Sorry about that.) But even just one little bite can you keep me awake at night scratching away. And of course, with the increased risk of Zika virus, we all want to protect our health from these nasty little bugs. As of right now where I live, the risk of contracting the Zika virus is quite small but I’d rather take all the precautions I can. While there isn’t necessarily a way to entirely avoid all mosquito bites, there are a few simple steps that you can take to protect yourself from mosquitoes as much as possible.
How to Protect Yourself from Mosquitoes
The most effective way to avoid mosquito bites is to ensure that you use an insect repellent. Just make sure that you choose one with ingredients that aren’t harmful to you or your children. DEET products are the best at keeping away mosquitoes but as with such products, there are some risks. Adults absorb very little DEET through their skin so it’s deemed to be safe (especially as compared to Zika virus) but don’t use it on children under the age of 1. (Canadian Pediatric Society says it’s safe in small amounts on those over the age of 6 months but other experts disagree). Most DEET-based repellents last anywhere from 4-8 hours, which means that you should only have to apply them once. Be sure to look for one that has 20% or higher DEET content.
Plant-based repellents, like citronella or eucalyptus, aren’t quite as effective as those with DEET but they can come close if you reapply them often enough. These will need to be applied every 30-60 minutes (which is one of the reasons most people stick to DEET products). Health Canada states that essential oils are NOT safe for use on children under the age of 2 so avoid DIY solutions involving those. No matter what kind you are using, always take care to apply your repellents in a well-ventilated area and avoid spraying them directly on your face. Never choose products labelled as insecticides – these are not meant to be used on humans! By the way, did you know that pets can use many of the same repellents that humans can? Check with your vet for the best options for your pet.
Oh and because we all want to be sun safe too, it’s important to note that you can wear sunscreen and insect repellent at the same time. (The two in ones aren’t approved for sale in Canada and aren’t nearly as effective by the way). Just be sure to apply the sunscreen first. Want more detailed information on how to choose the best and safest product for your family? Health Canada has an extensive insect repellent resource available.
Remove Standing Water
Make sure to remove all standing water from around your home and yard. Things like trash cans, pots, kiddie pools, buckets and more can serve to attract mosquitoes. This is because female mosquitoes lay their eggs in these environments. Make sure to do a walk around after it rains to ensure that you quickly empty out any water that has collected. It only takes 2 ounces of water for a mosquito to lay its eggs!!! If you were to leave out a whole cup of water all summer long, you could easily end up with 1000 eggs being laid.
While exercising outside has its benefits, it also has its downfalls. Mosquitoes are attracted to the chemicals you release with your sweat and breath as well as the movement and heat of your body. This results in them being drawn to you when you’re working out outdoors. It is best to exercise indoors during mosquito season.
Run a Fan Outside
Floor fans can serve as an effective deterrent when they blow across your body. Mosquitos can’t fly at speeds that allow for them to fight through wind. Having a fan (or two) running is a great way to keep the pesky bites at bay.
Wear Light Coloured Clothing
Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours. In addition, we tend to put off more body heat when wearing dark clothing and this also makes us more appealing to mosquitoes. Stores like LL Bean also sell clothing treated with permethrin, a pesticide. This clothing has been shown to be effective but it’s not a replacement for using insect repellent. It’s best when used along with applying a repellent for an extra layer of protection. While you’re at it, being as covered up as possible with clothing can give mosquitoes fewer places to bite.
Mosquitos love open toed shoes. So, as opposed to putting your flip flops on, choose sneakers or another kind of full coverage footwear. This will help to keep the mosquitos away from your tootsies.
Skip the Perfume
Perfumes can be attractive to mosquitoes, especially those with floral notes. It’s better to choose not to wear any kind of fragrance, especially if you are concerned about mosquito bites.
Keep Grass, Bushes, and Other Plant Life Trimmed.
Mosquitoes actually have delicate bodies and they need to stay out of the sun. (Hence why they’re worse once the sun goes down!). So, they hide on the underside of leaves or down in grasses. Take away their hiding places and they’ll move on.
If you like to hang out in your yard as the weather gets warmer, you can choose to plant items that repel mosquitoes. A mosquito’s sense of smell is approximately 10000 times that of ours! There are many different plants that can naturally make your outdoor space one that mosquitoes have no desire to be in because they simply can’t smell and find the good stuff (that’s us).
Choose plants such as:
- Lemon Balm
You can also apply a garlic solution to your grass and plants – focus on the areas where it’s cool and shady – to help make your backyard a mosquito-free (or at least reduced) zone. These are available commercially or you can make your own DIY garlic mosquito repellent.
As temperatures are rising around the world, so are the numbers of people contracting mosquito-related diseases. According to experts, in southern Ontario where I live, because of the spring weather we had, we are expected to see even more mosquitoes than usual this year. I still want to have fun with my family in the great outdoors so I’m taking all precautions available to keep us safe!.