Which Mosquito Repellents Actually Work?
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Summer time in South Florida means brilliant sunshine, afternoon thunderstorms and lots and lots of mosquitoes.
There are plenty of sprays, candles, and other treatments out there but which ones actually work?
Mosquitoes are blamed for South Florida’s first case of Dengue fever this year. The pesky critters can also cause malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis and they are also the cause of the Chikungunya virus coming into this country and South Florida from the Caribbean islands.
So when you reach for a repellant, how do you know which one works the best?
Most of us head for bug sprays which contain DEET.
“DEET is a product that confuses the mosquito sensory system,” said researcher Dr. Gabriel Hamer. “They are smelling C02 and everything that comes out of your skin they are focused on you and when they get down close to the skin to bite they get this mixed signal from the DEET that something’s not right here, don’t land.”
Dr. Hamer and his research team stuck their arms into cages of hungry mosquitoes to help us put four products to the test.
First was the popular spray Off!, which contains 15-percent DEET. The researchers also tested an all-natural DEET alternative called BioUD.
There also a Citronella-covered band that is worn as a bracelet, and Skin So Soft, the Avon lotion long touted as a mosquito repellant.
After applying each product to filter in a simulation of how the products would be applied to human skin, researchers placed the paper into containers full of hungry mosquitoes.
“What I can do now is let them get all disturbed by blowing in there and then let them resettle all by themselves,” a researcher explained.
The researchers then counted the number of mosquitoes that flew to the opposite side of the container to avoid the products.
They did each test three times and compared the numbers to controls.
So which repelled the most mosquitoes?
“I would say the DEET and BioUD had very similar levels of efficacy,” said Dr. Hamer.
Researchers found BioUD actually scored better than Off!, but the DEET spray was a very tight second.
“Both of these products, when applied to the filter paper, no mosquitoes landed on that paper and they even stayed quite a ways away from that filter paper,” Hamer said.
As for the Citronella and the Skin So Soft, both products also repelled the mosquitoes – although not as effectively as the others.
Avon’s brand public relations senior manager sent a statement, saying, “The Skin So Soft moisturizing lotion used in this report is not intended to repel mosquitoes, is not sold for that purpose, and is not approved by the EPA as a repellent. Avon does offer several insect repellents, including Avon’s Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus line of products. These products are approved by the EPA for use as insect repellents, and they contain active ingredients that are effective deterrents against mosquitoes.”
Whatever you apply, the experts say it should last 6 to 8 hours and when applying it, aim low because mosquitoes will bite your feet. If you have sandals and bare feet, they like people’s feet a lot.
While DEET works best, a recent study out of North Dakota says those citronella candles are a waste of time.
“Any repellant aroma that comes out of this would be wafted away by moving air.”
A better bet would be some of those yard treatments or fogs.
“Fog it into the vegetation and it contacts the mosquitoes and they drop down. But it has no residual, there’s nothing that will stay there that will keep mosquitoes about coming back.”
Also, keep in mind that mosquitoes can bite you through your clothes so don’t just spray your skin to keep the bugs away.
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