When we moved to Columbia last year I was stunned by the number of mosquitoes here. Even trips from our door to the car would lead to multiple bites if we didn’t have repellent on. Since we are currently living in an apartment, we don’t have the option of having our lawn treated. But with a year of experience under our belts, here are some tips we’ve learned to prevent and treat mosquito bites.
Time Your Trips
I’ve read a lot of articles about this, and the consensus seems to be that mosquitoes are most active during the early morning and evening. So if you can, avoid going outside during those times.
Wear Lighter Colors
Mosquitoes not only sense you through smell (which is what repellents seek to address) but also by sight. They are especially drawn to darker colors like red, blue, and black. So if you can, wear lighter colors when you go outside. Experts also recommend wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants … good luck with that in an SC summer.
We’ve gone through quite a bit of repellents the past year living in SC. I’ve come to the conclusion that no repellent will be completely successful. It seems that no matter how thoroughly I spray, those darn mosquitoes always tend to find the ONE SPOT on my son’s finger or neck I missed. That said, I still feel wearing repellent significantly reduces the number of bites.
Different repellents have different active ingredients. Here are the ones I liked the best based on effectiveness and smell.
This has DEET, which is one of the most effective active ingredients in repellents. This spray is sweat resistant and supposedly lasts for up to 10 hours, although we would always apply it in the morning and afternoon. This spray is marketed to families, so it is safe for children. While it gets the job done, I hate to smell like DEET all summer.
This is a newer discovery of mine, and I LOVE it! It kills two birds with one stone by applying repellent and sunscreen in a single spray. If your kid is anything like mine, he really doesn’t like to hang around to have sunscreen slathered on his skin, topped off by a heavy dousing of bug spray. If you don’t like having DEET in your repellent, this is a good option because the active ingredient is IR3535. It is still effective without the smell.
DIY Essential Oil Repellent
Another EPA-approved active ingredient in repellents is Eucalyptus Citriodora. However, this type of repellent can cause rashes and shouldn’t be used on children younger than 3. So if you are looking for a more child-friendly bug repellent that mimics the effects of Eucalyptus Citriodora, you can try the following essential oil recipe.
Yield: A small 2 oz spray bottle, but anyone can double/triple the recipe.
- 1 oz witch hazel
- 5-10 drops of Lemongrass, Citronella, Lavender, Thieves Geranium, and Eucalyptus Radiate (which is more kid-friendly than the Eucalyptus Citriodora mentioned above).
- 1 oz distilled water
Add the ingredients in the order they were listed, starting with the witch hazel and then adding the water after the essential oils. If you don’t have all of these oils on hand, the top three to use are Lavender, Citronella, and Lemongrass.
Caution: This stuff will smell strong, kind of like a cleaner. Even with a capped bottle, I could still smell the oils throughout our living room for the first few days after it was made. Shake before spraying, and spray on outside.
As explained above, even the best of repellents will sometimes fail you. So when the inevitable bites do come, here are three options to help soothe the itchiness.
This was recommended to me by a pediatrician, and the label says it is safe for kids older than two years old. This cream has been a lifesaver in helping to reduce the swelling and itchiness of our son’s mosquito bites. It also can be used for sunburn, minor cuts, scrapes, and rashes. We’ve found the best results when the cream was applied soon after a bite.
Aloe Vera Gel
You can either use gel directly from an Aloe Vera plant, or you can buy gel. While the gel is usually marketed for sunburns, it is also incredibly soothing on mosquito bites.
DIY Baking Soda Paste
This has also worked well to stop our son from scratching his bites. Mix 1 tsp of baking soda with enough water to create a paste, and apply it to any bites. Leave it on for at least ten minutes before washing it off. Or, if your kids are like mine, the paste will have rubbed off anyway after 10 minutes of active play.