Mosquitoes emerge in biblical numbers from lakes, ponds, swamps, and woodlands each summer, ravenous for their next meal. Keep an eye out—they have a personality type: “Mosquitoes are drawn to carbon dioxide because it attracts them. Exercising people, persons of greater stature, and pregnant women all exhale more carbon dioxide,” says Scott Paviol, a dermatologist at Paviol Dermatology in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, they also prefer those with warmer body temperatures, type O blood, and anyone wearing darker clothing.
It’s common to only discover you’ve been bitten until the itching begins. “When insects bite us, such as mosquitos, they pierce our skin and leave saliva or other compounds that cause our immune system to react to a foreign substance by releasing histamine and recruiting white blood cells,” Paviol explains. Mild discomfort to swelling, pain, and redness are all possible reactions. To help prevent these effects, David Price, an associate certified entomologist for the pest-control company Mosquito Joe, recommends taking an antihistamine before going outside. “Remember, the irritation is caused by the histamines in the mosquito’s saliva,” he says.
Hikers, beachgoers, and campers are all too familiar with slapping off black flies, fleas, no-see-ums, and ticks as they scour the woods for their next meal. While most bug bites are innocuous, a long-term interaction with a black-legged tick (deer tick) or an American dog tick can cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease.
Despite the importance of prevention, approximately 40% of Americans do not apply any type of insect repellent. Deet, a very powerful bug repellant with a tainted reputation that was developed by the United States Army in 1946, is one of the culprits. Some users experience skin problems such as rashes as a result of using the product, while others find the pungent odour unpleasant. However, contrary to popular misconception, there is no evidence that deet is detrimental to humans or wildlife, and the Environmental Protection Agency has certified it for use by people of all ages. Nonetheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advocated the use of natural oil of lemon eucalyptus, as well as picaridin, an odourless and less oily alternative to deet, to urge more people to protect themselves against bug bites.
Here are some of our favourite bug repellents and itch-relief alternatives, ranging from soaps and sprays to fire starters.
If You Don’t Want to Get Bitten:
All-Natural Soy Fire Starters ($7.50) by Malicious Women Candle Co.
Mosquitoes are most active in the early morning, dusk, and early evening. A bug-repelling pine cone, cinnamon bark, and rosemary fire starter will keep unpleasant bites away from your bonfire. The handmade fire starter is composed of soy wax and will burn for nearly an hour.
No-Bite-Me Bug Repellent Soap and Cream ($12 for soap; $14 for cream) by SallyeAnder
This bar of soap is created with soy and canola oils and infused with cedar, eugenol, lemongrass, geranium, clove, mint, rosemary, and thyme essential oils. For up to four hours, use it before going outside to keep black flies, mosquitos, fleas, and ticks at bay. The soap is also a shampoo and is suitable to use in rivers, lakes, and streams. Apply the No-Bite-Me cream, which is made with identical components, for added protection.
Rub-On Bug Repellent by Wildbloom Skincare ($8)
For up to 12 hours, rub this deet-free balm behind your ears, wrists, and ankles to keep ticks, mosquitos, and other pests at bay. It’s prepared with beeswax, coconut oil, and peppermint, lemongrass, rosemary, and citronella essential oils in equal parts.
Picaridin and Permethrin Trigger Spray ($27 for a two-pack) by Ranger Ready
One fine-mist trigger spray for your body and one for your clothing are included in this heavy-duty scent-free combination. The body spray contains 20% picaridin and provides eight to twelve hours of protection against mosquitos, ticks, gnats, chiggers, sand flies, biting flies, and no-see-ums. The apparel option contains 0.5 percent permethrin, which repels bugs for up to 40 days on clothing, gear, and tents. Ranger Ready is EPA-approved for use on children over the age of one year.
The Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve Company is located in Chagrin Valley, Ohio. Repellent Don’t Bug Me ($11 for 2 oz.)
After a generous spritz, this bug repellant has a zesty aroma and leaves no oily behind. This all-natural spray is safe for children and adults and contains organic witch-hazel, lemon eucalyptus, cedarwood, citronella, lavender, rosemary, lemongrass, basil, and thyme essential oils. The lightweight bottle is composed of 100% recyclable metal with zero waste. (As an added bonus, you can upcycle the bottle by filling it with your own homemade mixture.) Every two to four hours, reapply.
Dry Insect Repellent by Cutter Backwoods ($5)
There’s no denying that insect repellents containing deet are efficient. The EPA-approved Cutter Backwoods Dry has a 25% deet composition that is less greasy and smelly than other similar sprays. The aerosol spray delivers nearly ten hours of protection and guarantees uniform dispersion. It’s sweat-resistant, so it’ll hold up to even the most strenuous workout.
When You’ve Been Bitten:
Bug Bite Relief ($25) by Leaf People
This small yet powerful roll-on tube relieves bug and spider bites, minor cuts, and rashes caused by plant toxins. Tea tree and calendula oil, as well as lavender, oregano, lemon, eucalyptus aloe vera, and grapefruit seed extract, are the major constituents.
Muhi Mopiko Ointment ($12.50) Muhi Mopiko Ointment ($12.50) Muhi Mopiko O
For than a century, Mopiko, a well-known Japanese brand, has been soothing irritating bites from mosquitoes, lice, bees, and bedbugs. A cooling ointment prepared with pain-relieving camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate is contained in the travel-size toothpaste-like container. Headaches, muscle weariness, mild burns, and abrasions can all be treated with this multifunctional balm.
Oatmeal and Aloe Vera Remedies
To relieve itching and inflammation, dermatologist Scott Paviol recommends taking an oatmeal bath or applying cold or aloe plant gel.
Essential Oils are substances that have been extracted from plants.
Mosquito Joe’s David Price adds, “Natural oils like lavender and tea tree oil help take out the sting and discomfort of mosquito bites.” A few drops of the essential oil, diluted in water or a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut, would suffice. “Using too much will irritate the skin even more,” warns Price.