When you want to avoid mosquitoes, you apply a bug repellent. But other products you put on your body actually may be attracting these pesky blood-suckers.
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Mosquitoes savor certain smells that may make you a more likely target. Among them are beer, limburger cheese and scented body products.
When you know that you’re going to be outside, avoid using scented body products to help keep these unwanted bugs at bay. These products can include fragrances, deodorants and scented lotions.
Mosquitoes’ sense of smell tells them when a human target is within striking distance. Scented body products – especially those with strong floral scents – attract the blood-sucking bugs, says dermatologist Jennifer Lucas, MD.
“Mosquitoes are attracted to our body odor, but they also are attracted to the things we use to mask body odor,” Dr. Lucas says.
If you really want the mosquitoes to mind their own business, be sure to avoid using a moisturizing lotion before going outside. Many of these products contain lactic acid, which can attract mosquitoes too, Dr. Lucas says.
“Some of the products we use for rejuvenating purposes have alpha hydroxy acids in them, which is an attractant to mosquitoes,” Dr. Lucas says.
Choosing a bug repellent
If you avoid scented items but you still find the mosquitoes attracted to your scent – or don’t want to give up beer or limburger cheese – you may want to try insect repellent.
When choosing an insect repellent, look for either the active ingredients DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or picaridin (KBR 3023).
DEET and picaridin provide the best protection against biting mosquitoes, but DEET is the ingredient that is most common in these products.
Products with DEET typically offer different formulas, such as sprays or lotions. Higher concentrations of DEET can give you longer-lasting protection.
Formulas range from containing 5 percent DEET, which gives you about 90 minutes of protection, to 100 percent DEET, which gives you about 10 hours of protection.
Here, courtesy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are tips to using insect repellent safely:
- Follow the label directions.
- Apply repellents only to skin that is exposed. Don’t apply to skin that is underneath your clothing.
- Don’t apply near your eyes and mouth, and apply sparingly around your ears.
- When using sprays, do not spray directly into your face; spray on your hands first and then apply to your face.
- Never use repellents on cuts or wounds, or skin that is irritated.
- Do not apply sprays in enclosed areas.
- Avoid breathing in a spray product.
- Do not use repellents near food.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin and clothes with soap and water.