8 Ways to Prevent Mosquito Bites Once and for All
You’re not the only one looking forward to fun summer activities. Pesky mosquitos also enjoy warmer weather, so it’s best to prepare to share the great outdoors with a few insect friends. Getting rid of them isn’t as easy as getting rid of stinkbugs, and nothing’s more annoying than scratching at red, itchy bug bites on your skin or hearing buzzing around your ears. And on a more serious level, the itty-bitty insects can also cause some dangerous health concerns.
According to Joseph Conlon, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association, mosquito-borne diseases—like malaria, Zika virus, Dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever, and West Nile Virus—have been on the rise over the past few years. One of the main mosquito culprits? Primary transmitter Aedes aegypti, or yellow fever mosquito, which is often found in areas with high human populations and is present in most of the 50 states.
Why do I keep getting bitten by mosquitoes?
It’s true—some people are more susceptible to bites than others, but we have little control over the main deciding factor: genetics. Mosquitoes can be attracted to different chemicals (like lactic acid) found in human skin. Your skin’s chemical makeup, combined with your blood type and metabolic rate, can determine whether they see you as a “snack” or not. (Higher metabolic rates mean that your body is producing more carbon dioxide, which tends to attract more mosquitoes.)
Ultimately, a mosquito’s attraction to your blood comes down to one major component: biology. “The human body gives off about 300 different odors, and we’ve found that some of them are repellent to mosquitoes and some of them are attractive,” says Conlon. Basically, some people are just more mosquito-prone than others based on how their body metabolizes.
How do I stop getting bitten by mosquitos?
Just because mosquitoes are likely an inevitable part of summer activities doesn’t mean you’re left totally defenseless. To protect yourself and your family, we tapped the experts on how to prevent mosquito bites all season long. Insect and mosquito repellent is a no-brainer, but what are the best ingredients to look for? And does eating garlic really have these aggressive bloodsuckers running for the hills? Check out the best plans of attack in order to stay bite-free, as well as common mosquito myths and misconceptions addressed.1Get rid of standing water.
Still water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. “Get rid of all the containers on your property, dump the water out of them, and you get rid of mosquitoes,” says Conlon. “That may not always suffice because your neighbors might be breeding them and they can come into your yard. But, the fact is, if you eliminate the breeding around your house, you’re going to reduce the chances of you getting bitten.” Uncovered rain barrels, vases, puddles, water tanks, bird baths, and air conditioning drop pans are all inviting homes for mosquitoes.2(But don’t worry about your backyard pond!)
“One misnomer that people generally have is that if they have a pond in their backyard, there are mosquitoes breeding in that pond,” adds Conlon. “That’s not necessarily true.” Mosquito larvae can thrive in vegetation surrounding the body of water, but you won’t find the flying pests out on the pond itself. As Conlon notes, mosquitoes prefer water that’s less than one foot deep.3Survey the neighborhood.GETTY IMAGES
This is one of those rare times when being nosy actually benefits everyone. “If a neighbor has standing water that has not been taken care of, consider contacting your local health department,” says Will Sowards of travel health company Passport Health. Depending on your county’s resources, the health department may be able to treat stagnant water—in drainage ditches, retention ponds, and pools of abandoned and/or foreclosed houses—with insecticide at no cost to you.4Stock up on larvicide briquets.
Damien Sanchez, owner of DC Mosquito Squad, advises homeowners to use mosquito “dunks,” which are small, doughnut-shaped tablets that release a bacteria that kills mosquito larvae. The bacteria is harmless to humans, plants, and animals, says Sanchez, making dunks a good solution for potentially infested areas such as fish ponds, bird baths, and rain barrels.5Apply sunscreen before insect repellent.
If you’re going to be slathering on sunblock and bug spray, apply them in that order. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) recommends allowing the sunscreen to penetrate the skin for 20 minutes before using repellent, which can reduce the efficacy of sunscreen.
Sleep under a mosquito net.
Whether you’re setting out for a camping trip or staying somewhere with screens or unsealed cracks, sleeping under one of these is a good call.
Give your mosquito net some glamour.
Not all nets are created equal! If you’ve got a canopy bed setup on your hands and want maximum protection while maintaining a sophisticated aesthetic, opt for this easy-to-drape net.
Look for DEET or Picaridin on labels.
When it comes to insect repellents designed for skin application, Conlon recommends using an EPA-registered spray, lotion, or liquid repellent that contains 25-30% DEET or 15% or more of picaridin. Check the label to confirm the product’s EPA approval, which guarantees up to two hours of complete protection. (Side note: Repellent lotions will take a bit longer to kick in than sprays, Conlon notes).