Protecting Yourself from Mosquitoes

The mosquitoes of the South see me as a tasty, all-you-can-eat buffet. I used to get occasional bites on hiking trips in California, but nothing like spring and summer in Georgia. Without any preparation, I’ll get several bites within 10 minutes of going outside and they swell up pretty badly afterward in an allergic reaction most people don’t experience.

Here is my best advice for preventing and treating mosquito bites. For me, there is no remedy for a mosquito bite that helps as much as not getting bitten in the first place.

Warning: An example photo of said mosquito bite (yes, one) on my ankle follows.

Bug Repellent. Normal bug repellent and natural citronella or eucalyptus bug sprays do not work for me. Most people can use the standard bug repellent spray or a natural repellent spray to reduce the amount of bites.

My top recommendation is Sawyer’s 20% picaridin spray. I thought I would have to use DEET products all the time, but dislike the smell and DEET damages certain materials (like my nail polish). I use the Sawyer’s non-aerosol spray, but they also have other forms like lotion. I wear this spray daily over sunscreen in the warmer months. I’ll add a little more in the late afternoon if I’m taking the dogs on a long walk. I pump the spray into my hands and rub about two pumps onto each arm and leg. It is a little shiny at first application.

More Bug Repellent. If I am going to be outside for several hours or in any forested areas (including parks and backyards), I will up the bug repellent to the OFF Deep Woods repellent with DEET. It is by far the strongest and most effective, but also very strong in odor, which is why it’s not my top choice for daily use. I prefer the individual wipes so that I can control the application better and keep a small amount in my bag without any leaking. I wash my hands immediately after applying DEET repellent and shower it off before bed.

One tucks easily into a pocket or small bag.

Candles and Bug Lanterns. I find these effective for reducing mosquitoes in your outdoor areas, but only consider them to be about 50% effective for preventing bites on myself. Candles and lanterns offer a pretty small, fixed zone of protection, and you’re meant to stay put in that couple foot range. There are some fans and lanterns that create a larger protective zone, but most of them emit small amounts of repellent into the air and may not be safe to have around food or pets.

That Bug Bite Syringe. For me personally, this thing is not great. I am in the minority of tens of thousands of reviews. You have to recognize when you are bitten and have it on hand to use immediately in order for it to work effectively. After that 5-minute window passes, it has not really done much for me to reduce the size or severity of my bug bites. It can also be tricky to use if you need to use it one-handed or on the back side of your body.

Lavender Oil. Lavender essential oil is the only thing I’ve ever found that actually prevents bug bites from swelling up, rather than mildly treating the swollen irritation after the fact. It is also natural and simple to use. Lavender oil is most effective closer to when you’ve been bitten, but the oil can also be effectively applied later when the bite has already welted. You can buy a rollerball or a small vial and apply a few drops using a cotton swab. I don’t keep this in my bag like the OFF wipes, but do bring the rollerball on weekend or outdoor trips.

OTC Bite Remedies. If you’ve already been bitten, stick with a simple cortisone cream or calamine lotion. Apply with a very light hand, as these are topical steroids and drugs, and you will feel side effects if you apply too much. Avoid touching or scratching the bug bites to limit the swelling and imflammation. You can periodically ice any swollen spots or smack an itchy bug bug bite for relief.

There you have it – my tips to staying comfortably mosquito bite-free! I hope these help you as well!

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