Common insect repellents include:
DEET. This pesticide has long been the insect repellent of choice in the United States. DEET blocks a mosquito's ability to find people who've applied it.
Picaridin. This pesticide offers protection that's comparable to DEET at similar concentrations. It also blocks a mosquito's ability to find people who've applied it. Picaridin is nearly odorless, which may make it a good alternative if you're sensitive to the smells of insect repellents.
Oil of lemon eucalyptus. This plant-based chemical may offer protection that's comparable to low concentrations of DEET.
Others. Shorter acting repellents — generally containing plant-based oils such as oil of geranium, cedar, lemon grass, soy or citronella — may offer limited protection.
Check the labels of insect repellent products to see which chemicals or other ingredients they contain. And be sure to follow the product's application guidelines.
Deterring mosquitoes with clothing
What you wear can also help keep mosquitoes at bay. Clothing tips to keep in mind, particularly in areas that are heavily infested with mosquitoes, include:
Wear long-sleeved shirts
Wear long pants and consider tucking your pants into your socks
Wear light-colored clothing, since mosquitoes are more attracted to darker colors
Wear a full-brimmed hat to protect your head and neck or a baseball cap with a fold-out flap to protect the back of your neck
Consider wearing a mosquito net to cover your head and face or torso
Deterring mosquitoes by removing standing water
Mosquitoes need stagnant or standing water to breed. Eliminate standing water, especially after rains, and you can reduce the mosquito population around your home and yard.
To eliminate standing water:
Unclog roof gutters.
If possible, empty wading pools and other children's pools at least once a week, and preferably more often
Change water in birdbaths at least weekly. You can also purchase devices to place in birdbaths that keep the water circulating so that mosquitoes won't lay eggs there.
Get rid of old tires in your yard, since they collect water.
If you keep unused containers, such as flower pots, in your yard, empty them regularly or store them upside down so that they can't collect water.
If you have a fire pit, drain any collected water regularly.
Other mosquito-deterrent methods
Other methods of controlling mosquitoes also are popular, but their effectiveness is unproved. These other methods include:
Electronic insect control systems, better known as bug zappers
Replacing outdoor lights with yellow bug lights
Attracting birds and mammals that feed on mosquitoes, such as blue martins and bats
What to do when a mosquito bites
If a mosquito still finds you to be a tasty meal, use hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion or a baking soda paste to ease the discomfort of an itchy bite. A cold pack or baggie filled with crushed ice may help, too.
If a mosquito bite seems to be causing more serious signs and symptoms — such as fever, severe headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands, a rash, lethargy, confusion or sensitivity to light — contact your health care provider. These signs and symptoms may indicate West Nile fever or, rarely, encephalitis. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are important.
Insect repellents are one good way to keep mosquitoes at bay. When used properly, repellents are safe for kids and adults alike. Keep in mind that even though some of them are classified as pesticides by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), repellents don't kill mosquitoes. So you may still see the pesky critters buzzing about. Repellents simply make you more difficult to find.