We all love summer – the outdoor fun, backyard barbecues, the longer days that close with a lightshow of fireflies. Yet nothing interferes with a good time more than biting insects! To prevent these pests from ruining your summer, consider these repellents – some natural, others essential.
Natural Essential Oils
A number of natural essential oils have proven effective in repelling mosquitoes and other biting insects. According to a 2005 study in Phototherapy Research, among the most effective are citronella, patchouli and clove. Oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, lemongrass, neem, limonene and turmeric have also been deemed effective repellents according to a 2011 review in Malaria Journal.
Formulas containing undiluted essential oils are most potent. Choose a blended formula with a base of water, alcohol or plant-based oils as direct application of essential oils on the skin can cause irritation. You may reap additional benefits from a blend with coconut or palm nut oil since their fatty acids repel mosquitos and slow the evaporation of the essential oils. Still, as a precaution, it is recommended that natural repellents be reapplied every two hours.
When you find yourself in a particularly buggy environment — hiking in a forest, fishing in a river or pond — natural repellents may not be adequate for the job at hand. DEET (diethyltoluamide) is a widely-used insect repellent intended for use on skin or fabrics. While it’s generally considered safe when used as directed, it is best used only on clothing; when applied to the skin it may be absorbed into the body and has been associated with a number of issues, including endocrine disruption and neurological effects. And, because DEET has been used for so many years, biting insects may be resistant to it, as we often see patients with insect bites despite having used DEET.
That said, DEET can be effective and relatively safe when used just on clothing, and remains an important option for those venturing into highly infested areas. The Environmental Working Group recommends using formulas with 30 percent DEET, and less for young children.