Mosquitos can be the bane of any hot and steamy summer holiday. And take them seriously, because research says they are overwhelming the most dangerous threat to mankind’s existence. Over a million people every year die from one of the diseases they carry - malaria, yellow fever, Zika, dengue fever and West Nile virus amongst them.
So what to do to protect yourself from the persistent creatures? Buy one of the standard chemical options from your local pharmacy and you risk a toxin overload, drowning your system in unwelcome nasties. On average, 60% of what you slather on your skin ends up in your bloodstream, and it only takes 26 seconds for that process to begin.
Many of us spend a fortune year after year on ineffective remedies that don’t seem to achieve a thing. I have bought enough citronella candles to stock a small shop; I have invested in wristbands of varying types that seem to do precisely nothing, and eaten Marmite till it’s coming out of my ears; I even tried one of those anti-mosquito apps that are said to mimic predatory dragonflies - to no obvious avail.
This summer I have made a concerted effort, however, and asked virtually everyone I have met for their recommendations. General concensus decreed that Deet worked best of all the chemical options but Deet has been scientifically researched and found to be toxic to your brain. Picaradin too. Check the labels thoroughly because who wants a damaged brain really? Though confronted with a choice, as I waded through a Zika filled jungle, I might take my chances.
I asked for natural and preferably non-invasive suggestions and I have now experimented with them myself - to see if the holy grail of mosquito repellent actually exists or whether the mosquito is to remain mankind’s bane for ever, and is simply sent to try us.
Endurance and stoicism in the face of extreme itching may be character forming, but a malarial fever is not something to be wished on anyone, and nature must have effective remedies up her capacious sleeves.
5 natural ways to keep mosquitos away this summer
All of these keep the mosquitoes away. Some simply decimate their numbers, others prevent them from breeding in the first place. A stitch in time, as they say, saves nine.
1 Essential oil spray
The doctor and acupuncturist I regularly consult offered me her favourite summer deterrent: one of those plastic spray bottles you use for ironing, filled with water containing a mixture of lavender, basil and tea tree oil. Spray the air around you and the mosquitos keep away. A diffuser with the same ingredients achieved the same thing in the mosquito filled downstairs and slightly damp sitting room of our holiday home this year. A great success - and delicious smelling too. Lemon eucalyptus oil is another essential oil option.
This is one of my favourites. Not only can you clearly see the mosquitos moving away in a trice, but you also get a great smell of coffee smoke. Nearly as good as a cup of the real thing! Bit of a waste of the lovely grounds, but pile them onto a dish or plate, light them with a match and hey, presto, as the swirls of smoke begin to rise, the mosquito exodus begins. Inexpensive and yet thoroughly effective.
3 Guerrilla warfare
Swoop down on any stagnant pools of water: mosquitos love standing water and multiply happily there in their thousands. They lay their eggs in any birdbath or untended bowl of water. Kitchen sink or washing up bowl that’s never really emptied out? Be careful – it will rapidly fill with blood sucking inhabitants. Empty out any containers, make sure you scrub them thoroughly to prevent the eggs sticking to the sides, and for total annihilation, spray a thin layer of oil on the water surface, which will suffocate the larvae, killing them rapidly. A couple of teaspoons of olive oil, cinnamon oil or vegetable oil will all do the job. Prevention, as always, is better than having to deal with a larger problem further down the line!
4 Eat garlic
In the middle ages, garlic was used to ward off Count Dracula and his vampire friends. Today it works for the insect blood sucking variety. This is a hard one, because although mosquitos hate the smell of garlic as it oozes powerfully through your pores, so do most of your friends and family. It works – but up to you!
5 Vitamin B1
Another remedy that seems to make your skin less appealing to our biting friends anecdotally is B1 (thiamine – 500mg a day). It is recommended you start supplementing at least two weeks before you are likely to encounter any mosquitos. Science says it’s not proven – but anecdotally, it clearly works for some people. Possibly worth an experiment.
And last but definitely not least
This one is not exactly natural – and I haven’t a clue what its real name is - but if you are not worried at the thought of outright murder and any karmic mosquito retribution, then what works brilliantly, and is far and away the best fun of all (and excellent exercise to boot) is to swat them as they swoop down upon you, with one of those inexpensive ‘buzzing’ racquets that come from China in container loads. Hit your target and you are rewarded with a bleep. Fun for all the family and yours for just a couple of pounds, euros or dollars!
If any of you have other suggestions, I would love to hear about them. Leave a comment below.
Happy Holidays! And may they be successfully mosquito free.
UPDATE: Reader top tips
I was inundated with additional anti-mozzie solutions, so here are a few of them…
A spray a day keeps the bugs away: Apparently Mel Gibson successfully took a suitcase full of Avon’s ‘Skin so Soft’ (which is not a mosquito repellent at all, but a dry oil body spray with remarkable bug repelling effects) with him to Scotland while he was filming Braveheart. Comes highly recommended.
Incognito: This is an award winning, all natural anti-mosquito spray that is both DEET and Picaridin free and yet in tests is 100% effective against mosquito bites. It works against mosquitoes that carry Zika, Malaria, Dengue and Chikungunya, as well as the less lethal midges, horseflies, ticks and sandflies.
Alfresco: This is a myrtle-infused anti-bug moisturizer, that smells great to anyone - except mosquitoes. It is paraben and paraffin free and happily hydrates your skin whilst it wards off the bug swarms.
Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's leading breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health.
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