There are about 150 species of mosquitoes in the United States, and many of them spread disease.
For instance, the Asian tiger mosquito can transmit yellow fever and Dengue fever. The northern house mosquito can transmit West Nile virus.
Mosquitoes are attracted to their prey by carbon dioxide, heat, moisture, scent and sight. Studies have shown that as many as 277 different human-related odors can attract a wide variety of mosquitoes, including the smell made as bacteria break down human sweat into ammonia.
The most common insect repellents in use today contain DEET. Fully one-third of the U.S. population uses repellants containing DEET, which is found in more than 230 products in concentrations up to 100 percent.
But heavy exposure to DEET has been shown to cause memory loss, headache, weakness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, tremors, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may not be evident until months or even years after exposure. The most severe damage occurs when DEET is used concurrently with other insecticides, such as permethrin, for prolonged and frequent periods of time. There is little information about the short-term, singular and occasional use of DEET. However, frequent and long-term use of DEET, especially in combination with other chemicals or medications, could cause brain deficits in vulnerable populations, particularly children.
According to a Duke University Medical Center study, rats given even small doses of DEET for 60 days had a harder time accomplishing even the easiest tasks. And because DEET is not water-soluble, it doesn’t break down and remains on surfaces when rinsed off the skin.
Natural insect repellants make more sense than poisoning oneself with chemicals recommended for only occasional use.
Lemon eucalyptus oil has been shown to provide more than 95 percent protection from mosquitoes for up to three hours. Cinnamon, citronella and thyme have been shown to be repellant to mosquitoes. What’s more, they’ve also shown to be irritating and toxic to the insects. Cumin, lemongrass and coleus have also proven to be repellant and mosquito irritants.