I feel compelled to give you a great, groundbreaking, change-the-world answer. There just isn’t one. Let’s start with what attracts mosquitoes in the first place.
* Carbon Dioxide - This is what we give off when we exhale during breathing. The faster you breathe, the more mosquitoes you attract. A fire or candle gives off carbon dioxide as it burns.
* Lactic Acid - When we exercise, our bodies create lactic acid as a waste product. Sometimes, it can come through the skin, giving a slight odor that is detectable by the mosquitoes.
* Certain Perfumes - Flowery or fruity fragrances like those found in bath or body lotions have a tendency to bring on mosquitoes.
* Moisture - Mosquitoes reproduce in water so they are attracted to moisture in the air. If you are sweating, even in the slightest, the mosquitoes will find you. If you have been exercising, breathing rapidly, sweating, and try to cover the smell with a fruity perfume, just stay inside.
As far as the concerns with DEET, I use it and spray it on my kids. I can hear the dirt people shouting already, “How dare you put that toxic, deadly chemical on your children.” I don’t coat them from head to toe every day. They are boys and, occasionally, they want to go walking around in the woods. Here in Tennessee, we have ticks. So, I spray their shoes, socks, and up their legs. I’m comfortable with the occasional use but have no problem with someone who wants to use something else.
I found an old Consumer Reports article from June 2006 that said a product called Repel Lemon Eucalyptus was the best repellant that does not contain DEET. The testers did say that the odor was pretty strong. I checked epinions.com and it got 4 1/2 stars, so I guess it is pretty effective. You can buy it just about anywhere. If you can’t find it, google Repel Lemon Eucalyptus and you’ll find it for sale.
I also found a comparison in the New England Journal of Medicine that gave the repellant times of various products…
* Off Deep Woods (23.8% DEET) - 301 minutes
* Repel Lemon Eucalyptus - 120 minutes
* Off Skintastic for Kids (4.75% DEET) - 88 minutes
* Bite Blocker (Geranium, soybean, and coconut oil) - 88 minutes
The studies that I read concerning citronella candles showed that they have little effectiveness. On average, they provided about 25% better protection than no candle at all. So, instead of four mosquito bites, you’ll get three.
Also, a product that I have used, Skin So Soft was shown in other studies to give only about 10 minutes of protection. I will say that my skin was nice and I didn’t get any mosquito bites as far as I can remember, but I rarely get bit anyway.
Have you noticed that some people rarely get bit while others seem to always be getting mosquito bites? My wife and I are like that. I rarely get bit and send the mosquitoes to her to have a feast. Scientists are working on developing a natural repellant that is derived from the scent given off by people who rarely get bitten, like me. They have discovered a few and are working on putting those odors into a product. Since it is natural to the human body, it should have no perceivable odor and no skin reactions.
I’m not concerned about West Nile Virus either. If you are bitten by a mosquito that carries it, your chances of getting a serious infection are about 1%. Your risk of death from West Nile is about the same as winning the lottery. In the last 10 years, only about 500 people have died from the West Nile Virus and they were most likely in poor health to begin with.
I don’t fall for all these killer diseases that seem to spring up every year. How come every summer, there is something new that is going to wipe out the human race? Remember SARS? We were all going to die from that. We still have the deadly bird flu. Why aren’t we dropping like dead pigeons? I remember the “summer of the shark” when a half-dozen swimmers were bitten by sharks. They had shark experts coming out of the woodwork saying that sharks were moving towards the shore because of over-fishing. The fact was, there were the same amount of shark bites that year as any other year, it was just slow news at the time, they needed something sensational to talk about. Oh, and Mad Cow disease, what happened there? We just went through the MRSA scare, the flesh eating bacteria. That was just this year, we were supposed to bathe in antiseptic lotion so as not to succumb to the dreaded MRSA.
Dr. West Conner is a pharmacist, author, and speaker specializing in both lowering prescription drug costs and reducing or eliminating the need for expensive prescription drugs. He is a sought after speaker and has appeared on ABC, FOX, and several radio stations across the United States.
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