Mosquitoes are universally annoying, and sometimes carry dangerous diseases. So it is not surprising that a number of mosquito repellent myths have been circulating for many years. Want to tell fact from fiction? The professionals at Mr. Mister Mosquito Control have put together some of the most common mosquito repellent myths. Don’t be fooled!
Why There are So Many Mosquito Myths
It’s no secret that lots of people hate mosquitoes. The severity of reactions to mosquito bites varies from person to person. But that nasty itching is enough to drive plenty of people out of their minds. It’s amazing how pesky mosquitoes can turn a lovely outdoor activity into an uncomfortable bite fest. Some people even avoid the outdoors altogether. During the spring and summer, when the weather is perfect for outdoor fun, some people don’t go out at all. All to avoid mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes Can Spread Disease
Besides the annoying bites, some mosquito bites pose a much more serious risk. Mosquitoes are vectors for a number of serious diseases. In the United States, the most common virus carried by mosquitoes is West Nile virus. This virus can cause varying levels of sickness. About 1 out of 150 people infected with West Nile virus develops severe illness affecting the nervous system. According to the CDC “people over 60 years of age are at greater risk. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk.” There are no specific antivirals for West Nile Virus and about 1 in 10 patients who develop severe illness affecting the nervous system die of the disease.
In other parts of the world mosquitoes commonly carry malaria, dengue fever, and in some instances Zika virus. In all of these cases, mosquito bites can be much more than just a nuisance. Individuals infected with these viruses can become extremely ill and develop serious chronic symptoms or even die.
So it is no surprise that mosquito repellent is a common topic of discussion. And as with any topic that is widely discussed by the public, there is bound to be a lot of misinformation. In an attempt to find the best, safest, healthiest, and easiest ways to repel mosquitoes, many myths have developed. Some of these are harmless, while others can lead to inadequate protection and serious complications.
Here are a few of the most common myths.
Myth: Natural is Better
This myth, that natural solutions are better than man-made ones, is applied much more widely than just to mosquito repellents. While some things are done better by nature, the mere fact that something is natural does not make is safer, healthier, or more effective. This is true of everything from food, to medicine, to products and materials. Natural does not necessarily mean better. And sometimes it means worse.
When it comes to mosquito repellent, there are plenty of products out there that claim to be natural. The most popular are made of plant extracts and claim to be healthier alternatives to the chemical compounds used in other repellents. Unfortunately, numerous scientific studies have shown that these repellents are not nearly as effective as the most commonly recommended chemical compounds, DEET and picaridin.
DEET in particular has been shown over and over in field-based tests and in the lab to be the most effective mosquito repellent. Mosquito repellents with DEET as the main ingredient are widely available. They are the only kind of repellent recommended by the CDC to prevent bites and the associated illnesses they can transmit.
Botanical-based repellents have a limited effect for a short period, but would need to be reapplied three to four times as often as even a low concentration DEET repellent. Such botanical-based repellents are strongly discouraged in areas affected by mosquito borne illnesses.
Myth: Stronger Repellent Means Fewer Mosquitoes
DEET repellents have been shown in many, many scientific studies to be the most effective form of mosquito repellent. So it would make sense that the higher the concentration of DEET in a repellent, the better it will work. In other words, higher concentration equals fewer mosquitoes and fewer mosquito bites.
Unfortunately, that is not exactly how DEET works. A concentration of 10% is enough to effectively ward off mosquitoes. Much higher concentrations of DEET are availability, but a higher concentration doesn’t make DEET any more effective than it is at a lower concentration.
So why do they make high concentration repellents? The simple answer is that it has to do with reapplication. The stronger the concentration of DEET, the less often you will have to reapply to repellent. It is important to take note of the length of protection when using any repellent, and to plan on reapplying before the repellent dissipates and becomes ineffective.
Myth: Chemical Repellents Aren’t Safe
This goes back to the “natural is better” myth. There are plenty of natural products that are poisonous to humans in even small doses. And on the opposite side, there are many man-made chemical compounds that pose no health risk at all.
DEET is the most common and most effective man-made mosquito repellent. Numerous scientific studies have shown DEET to be safe. In fact, if you use DEET as directed there are absolutely no substantial health risks. Millions of people use DEET based repellents each year. Yet there are very, very few reports of serious adverse health effects present in the scientific literature.
There are anecdotal reports of unpleasant smells on slight discomfort on the skin where DEET is applied. This tends to be true when using extremely high concentrations of DEET. There are DEET based repellents available with as high as 95% DEET concentration. For most people, much lower concentrations should work just fine. 10% is a good standard, or slightly more if you are concerned about the need for longer-term protection. Using these lower concentrations should take care of the smell or discomfort.
Myth: Repellent Should Be Applied As a Light Mist
This relates back to the “chemicals are dangerous” myth. There are some people who feel that it is safer to apply only a light mist of repellent. They may spray DEET based repellents in the air and then step into the cloud of mist. This works for some light sprays like perfumes or colognes. But that not how DEET works.
The concentration of active ingredients in DEET based repellents in listed on the packaging. If you are not spraying the repellent directly onto your skin and covering all exposed areas, you are not getting the printed concentration. A fine mist on your clothes just doesn’t work.
One good solution to make sure you are getting the full effect of your repellent is to ditch the mist altogether. Creams and liquids ensure that you are getting the full concentration. This is important to make sure that there is enough DEET to be effective and that the concentration is high enough to last for as long as you need it. (Or until you plan to reapply the repellant.)
Myth: Repellant is the Only Way to Avoid Mosquitoes
There are more options than just repellant to avoid mosquitoes. When you are going out and about, repellant is your friend. If you plan to hike or picnic, you are likely to come across mosquitoes, so repellant is your best protection. The same is true of water sports, fishing, and other outdoor activities during mosquito season.
But at home you have another option. You can get rid of the mosquitoes in the first place, so they aren’t flying around needing to be repelled. Mr. Mister can help create a mosquito free zone around your property, so you can enjoy your outdoor spaces without those pesky flying pests.
Mr. Mister offers two main types of treatment. We can come out for regular yard treatments. At each treatment we spray a 100% biodegradable solution that sticks to the underside of your vegetation. It kills mosquitoes and keeps them from reproducing, effectively stopping mosquitoes in their tracks. Another solution we offer is automated misting systems. These systems are like sprinkler systems that release a fine mist of anti-mosquito solution at regular intervals. The system can be installed so that it is almost completely hidden and it will keep mosquitoes at bay on a long-term basis.
To find out about our different solutions, you can visit our website or contact us to set up a consultation and get a quote.