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Protect Yourself Against Mosquitoes



Feature | Black mosquito on person's skin | Protect Yourself Against Mosquitoes

Summer nights are upon us, full of the chirping of crickets, the blinking of fireflies, and the buzzing of… mosquitoes.

RELATED: How To Get Rid Of Mosquitoes | 9 Best Ways to Keep Insects Away

How to Protect Yourself Against Mosquitoes

The Dangers of Mosquitoes

These nasty little critters, along with ticks and a few other bugs are responsible for the spread of diseases like the West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, and plenty of other nasty ailments.

I was scrolling through yahoo the other day and found this article that shows the efficacy of different brands of insect repellents.

Take a look and let me know what you think:

A good insect repellent can protect you from mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus, ticks, and other biting insects.

Insect Repellents Review Procedure

Concerned about West Nile virus or ticks? Or just want to enjoy late-summer and fall outdoor gatherings, camping, hiking, and hunting without biting bugs?

If so, you're in luck.

For this insect repellent review, brave testers at an outside lab bared their arms in mosquito-filled cages and also let ticks crawl on them. We recorded how long it took for mosquitoes to start biting and for ticks to crawl over treated areas.

Our bugs were free of disease, but wild mosquitoes in the U.S. can carry West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis.

Travelers outside the U.S. might encounter mosquitoes carrying malaria, yellow fever, or dengue fever.

Ticks can spread Lyme disease, human babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. (Stay on top of the news related to West Nile virus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's West Nile page.)

What is Lyme disease? Caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium-carrying ticks, a person with this disease experiences symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and skin rashes.

Effective Insect Repellants

Several tested repellents (see ratings below) protected against deer ticks and two common types of mosquitoes for 8 hours or more.

Four of those contain deet in varying levels:

  • Off Deep Woods Sportsmen II (30%)
  • Cutter Backwoods Unscented (23%)
  • Off FamilyCare Smooth & Dry (15%)
  • 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent 8 (25%)

The active ingredient in some insect repellents is oil of lemon eucalyptus. (It's not recommended for children under 3.) Almost as effective was Natrapel 8-Hour with picaridin, which protects with picaridin.

Our five top choices worked for at least 7 hours.

While the effectiveness of the best insect repellents is similar they feel and smell somewhat different.

  • Cutter Backwoods leaves little scent or sensation.
  • Off Deep Woods has a citrusy odor and filmy residue panelists wanted to wash off.
  • Off FamilyCare has a fruity odor and dries quickly.
  • 3M Ultrathon has a strong odor and leaves an oily feeling on the skin at first.
  • Natrapel has a floral odor and is a little greasy.

RELATED: Plants That Repel Insects and Pests

Ingredient Issues

The Environmental Protection Agency judges deet safe when used as directed, but it has caused rare toxic reactions when misused. Don't use it on infants less than 2 months old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using repellents with deet concentrations higher than 30 percent on any children. We think that no one needs a repellent with more than 30 percent deet.

Also note that national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you avoid products that mix sunscreen with deet insect repellent. Unlike repellents, sunscreens are meant to be applied liberally and often, so using a combination product could result in unnecessarily high exposure to repellents.

Another reason not to use a combo: Many mosquitoes tend to bite long after the highest risk of sun damage has passed.

Bottom Line

Most of the tested products will do the job if you're going to be outside for only a couple of hours, but look for a highly rated product to protect you on longer excursions.

The insect repellents in our ratings, below, are still available; prices reflect what we paid when we tested these products in 2010.

How to Apply Repellent and Protect Yourself

Close up of legs spraying insect repellent | Protect Yourself Against Mosquitoes

When applying any repellent, follow directions.

  • Use your hands to apply it to your face, avoiding your eyes and mouth, and don't apply it to cuts.
  • Use just enough to cover exposed skin.
  • Some directions suggest using it on clothes, but most tested repellents damaged leather and vinyl, and some of them stained synthetic fabrics.
  • Wash repellent off your skin and launder treated clothes.

For extra protection:

  • Wear light-colored, loose clothes and avoid using scented products when outdoors, especially at peak feeding hours—dusk to dawn for most mosquitoes.
  • Remove standing water near your house. It can be a mosquito breeding ground.
  • To avoid ticks, tuck pants into socks and wear closed shoes and a hat.
  • Inspect yourself for ticks after venturing into wooded or grassy areas.



Check out these natural ways to keep mosquitoes away from the BRIGHT SIDE:

These are all Mainstream repellents available, but have you found any slightly less toxic alternatives that keep these critters from nipping at your heels (and various other places)?

What insect repellant do you use to ward off mosquitoes? Let me know in the comments section below.



Editor's Note: This post was originally published on May 27, 2013, but has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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  1. TinMan

    May 27, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    I live on small farm. If there is tick within 100 yards. I will be bitten. I really dislike the standard retail chemical repellents, (allergies and skin irritations. I have found something alternative that works for me. Since i have been using my new home made tick repellent, I have not been bitten once.
    I mix:
    1 pint of distilled white vinegar.
    1 pint of water.
    25 drops of essential oil of lavender
    25 drops of essential oil of maleluca, (Tea Tree oil)
    Place in spry bottle and shake well before using. apply liberally to the extremities and on clothing. Please take care not to put in your eyes….
    BTW, this works well on my dogs and goats underbellies
    Hope this works for you too.

    • JJM

      May 27, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      Glad to see a ‘natural’ recipe that reportedly works. I think the oils you mention are some of those I’ve read that repel insects.

    • Brent Pendleton

      May 27, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      Does that work for mosquitoes as well?

  2. KGB

    May 27, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    A Bounce dryer sheet tucked inside a shirt collar, or sticking out from beneath a hat will repel mosquitoes. They will also keep mice from nesting in cars that are being stored.

  3. JKC

    May 27, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    Yes, let’s see more homemade recipes and less store bought junk. Real preppers want real survival skills, not fake store bought ones!

  4. Highpockets

    May 28, 2013 at 4:36 AM

    The “Vinegar of the Four Thievs” from has worked for me. I smell like vinegar, but the beasties don’t bite. I have also had good success with using permethrin on my ‘outdoor’ or camping clothes. It seems to keep the ticks at bay.

  5. L.T. Oates

    May 28, 2013 at 9:12 PM

    Garlic helps. Also try the Original Bugpatch. Search engine can help you find it.

  6. J. Joy

    May 30, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    I use Lemongrass essential oil to repel mosquitoes outdoors. Persons with very sensitive skin can dilute Lemongrass essential oil with a little Olive or Almond oil, I use it straight, apply to exposed skin and enjoy the great outdoors! It’s not 100% effective in heavily infested areas, but it works about as good as any chemical repellent I’ve tried and has a rather pleasant scent by comparison.
    Lemongrass is attractive to dragonflies, which eat mosquitoes. Mosquitoes know that where there is Lemongrass, there are probably predators and tend to avoid.

  7. T-Wil

    June 3, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    The correct spelling is DEET, not deet. N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide is the actual chemical and is abbreviated to DEET.

    I will be stocking up on the Off brand for when I go to the Boundary Waters for a canoe trip. I will also try the recipe TinMan suggested. Thanks!

  8. Arthur L. Brown Sr.

    June 6, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    I prefer Ben’s as it is a long lasting effective repellent I use in my home state of Alaska while out Hunting, Fishing, etc. We don’t seem to have ticks, but we have the Mosquitoes, Midges, and biting Flies.

  9. Betty

    July 17, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    I used to be an Avon lady, and sold many bottles of Skin-So-Soft oil to guys going to Southeast Asia. Although it is not sold as an insect repellent, that’s what the guys were using it for. Works pretty well for me too.

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  17. JON H OLD

    January 27, 2018 at 10:40 AM

    I was “too poor for products” Southern boy. If there are not too many, as in a room, just stick a tasty arm out and wait for it to be ready to land, then inhale breath fully. This closes skin pores, while it is trying to figger out how to stick you, WACK IT. Also , if you SEE one biting you, inhale. This traps needle nose IN pore, grab it let out air, and get your revenge. Oldjon.P

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