Last updated: July 10, 2017
Are you prone to mosquito bites?
You might realize that certain people are more susceptible to mosquito bites than others. I’m the prime example of this and I’ve always ended up with the most itches and bites everywhere at all whenever I go, even when I’m at local parks that are not heavily covered by trees and bushes.
The reason is that a mosquito is attracted to 3 things: body heat, the carbon dioxide that we exhale and our skin excretions (primarily lactic acid). If you sweat easily for instance, or if you have been eating certain foods like peanut butter or chocolate, you’ll be like a homing beacon to these mosquitoes. After spending a considerable amount of time researching and testing various products on myself, I found that there are really only 3 main categories that the best mosquito repellents can be grouped into:
- DEET-based repellents
- All-natural repellents (DEET free)
- Electronic repellents
What is DEET?
DEET-based products are extremely popular simply because they work the best in repelling mosquitoes. In fact, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/toolkit/DEET.pdf) have noted DEET to be the best available protection against mosquito bites.
DEET is a chemical that “blinds” any female mosquitoes (i.e the ones that bite) by causing their antennae to go haywire. These annoying insects will be unable to detect your presence while this chemical is around.
Products with a higher concentration of DEET levels often mean that they are more effective in repelling mosquitoes, but the stronger the DEET concentration, the higher the risks of potential side effects.
Side effects of DEET
Although side effects are rare, excessive usage or a high concentration of DEET can cause rashes, blisters and other skin related irritation. DEET also has the potential to melt certain plastics such as the surface of your watch or your sunglasses.
Should I use DEET repellents?
DEET repellents offer the most effective protection against mosquitoes, but you should really only use them in jungle areas or heavily infested locations, where you’ll be susceptible to serious diseases such as Malaria or the West Nile virus. The best DEET-based mosquito repellent for me would be the 3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion, which will offer the strongest protection against mosquitoes and various other insects for up to 12 hours (as advertised).
Personally, I re-applied this lotion every 5 hours when I was in India and Africa, and the only bites I’ve gotten were when I accidentally wiped off the lotion, which brings me to my next point.
Although it’s sweat-resistant, try not to wipe the lotion off together with your sweat or you’ll still get bites in those areas that you’ve wiped clean. If you do, remember to apply the lotion again!
Besides DEET, you could choose to go for natural repellents that contain lemon eucalyptus instead. This is one of the few products besides DEET that is recommended for use by the CDC.
Although less effective than DEET products, they’re much safer on your skin and should offer sufficient protection in less concentrated areas of mosquito infestation like camping in parks or the edges of forests.
I’d also recommend giving it these products a try to see if they’re effective enough before settling for any products that contain DEET. Of all natural-based repellents that I’ve gone through, this Lemon Eucalyptus spray by Repel seems to work best.
This is, by far, my personal favorite choice simply because I don’t have to apply anything on my skin at all. I have slightly oily skin and I sweat very easily too. Because of this, I tend to get bitten by mosquitoes a lot more often compared to my friends or family whenever I go on a camping trip with them.
Also, due to my skin condition, I absolutely hate applying any products onto my skin since I’ll feel even more clammy and sticky all over than I already am when I head out.
With that said, the ThermaCell Mosquito Repellent device is easily the best mosquito repellent for me since it dispenses with the need to apply anything at all onto my skin. I’m able to be free of the “waxy” feeling that came with applying slathers of chemicals or lotion, which was especially bad when you had to re-apply them over your already sweaty and/or oily skin.
How does it work?
This ThermaCell repellent works by expelling some sort of insecticide into the air around you, which keeps mosquitoes away. If you don’t wish to carry it around in your hand, you could opt to place it in a holster (that is sold separately), which can then be clipped to your belt.
A drawback with this device is that the “screen” will get hot after a couple of hours and you can’t dump it into your backpack immediately, and this is where its holster becomes useful. Also, since it works by emitting insecticide into the air, it might not work as well in constantly breezy or windy areas. I’d recommend using this in conjunction with light applications of bug sprays for more heavily infested areas.
Despite these inconveniences, I’ve gladly put up with them and if you’re anything like me, you should really give this electronic device a try first.