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Following on from my previous blog about a NY Times article that didn't live up to its promise of offering a safe way to combat mosquitos I wanted to provide some genuine advice on non-toxic insect repellants and techniques for avoiding the troublesome pests.
After a quick internet search I came across a fantastic article on About.com written by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., the site's chemistry guide.
Helmenstine explains that mosquitos use complex mechanisms to detect hosts so the most effective way escape becoming such a host is to avoid things that attract them and also use truly non-toxic repellants at the same time.
What do Mosquitos Find Attractive?
Carbon Dioxide - As mentioned in my previous blog, mosquitos find hosts by following their trail of exhaled carbon dioxide (CO2). You give off more CO2 when you are hot or have been exercising so either avoid being outside or make sure you have other sources of CO2 to distract them such as candles or a fire.
Dark Clothing - Apparently mosquitos find dark clothing attractive so best bring out those light and bright colours from your wardrobe/closet!
Lactic Acid - Lactic acid is produced during exercise when muscles switch to anaerobic metabolism. You also produce more after eating certain foods including those high in salt (e.g. processed foods) and potassium (e.g. bananas). Some of the lactic acid is expelled through the skin.
Strong Fragrances - Mosquitos are attracted to strong fruity or floral fragrances according to Helmenstine. This includes perfumes, scented soaps and sun lotions, as well as laundry detergents etc. Obviously for those of us with environmental illness this is a non-issue as we already avoid all of these!
Moisture - Mosquitos are attracted to any moisture, whether it is standing water such as a lake or even just a puddle, or the moisture us humans give off when we're hot - sweat. Best avoid the heat and exercising in mosquito country if you want to avoid being bitten.
Natural Insect Repellants
Helmenstine recommends making your own insect repellant from natural oils, mainly various volatile essential oils. Now, I know these can be as much of a problem for MCS sufferers as synthetic chemicals but for others they offer a much safer alternative than DEET so I've chosen to include the list here.
- Citronella Oil - Lemon Eucalyptus Oil - Cinnamon Oil - Castor Oil - Rosemary Oil - Lemongrass Oil - Cedar Oil - Peppermint Oil - Clove Oil - Geranium Oil - Possibly Oils from Verbena, Pennyroyal, Lavender, Pine, Cajeput, Basil, Thyme, Allspice, Soybean, and Garlic
It's recommended that as many as possible are combined and reapplied to the skin frequently (every 2 hours) as they all work in slightly different ways and each species of mosquito also detects hosts differently.
Please visit About.com for the original article.