Mosquito Myths & Facts Sorting Out the Summer Buzzkill

Mosquito Myths & Facts Sorting Out the Summer Buzzkill

Protecting Yourself from Mosquitoes: What Works and What Doesn’t


Mosquitoes can be a big nuisance, leaving behind itchy bumps on the skin and potentially spreading serious diseases, such as West Nile virus[^1^]. To help us understand how to protect ourselves, we consulted Sam Telford III, a professor of infectious disease and global health at Tufts University[^1^]. Here’s what he has to say:

What Works and What Doesn’t

When it comes to deterring mosquitoes, some products are more effective than others. According to Telford, citronella is less effective compared to products like DEET[^1^]. Additionally, patio appliances that heat repellents to keep groups safe outdoors have been shown to be highly effective against different mosquito species[^1^].

However, wearables, such as bracelets or patches, are not effective in reducing mosquitoes’ attraction to humans[^1^]. So, while they may seem like a trendy accessory, don’t rely on them alone for protection.

Choosing the Right Clothing

Many people believe that wearing long sleeves and pants can help prevent mosquito bites. However, it’s important to note that mosquitoes can bite through tight-fitting clothing made of thin material[^1^]. Instead, opt for loose-fitting clothing treated with an insecticide like permethrin (0.5%)[^1^]. Be cautious with clothing that is still wet from treatment as it can be toxic to cats[^1^].

Insect Repellents

Using insect repellents is an effective way to protect yourself from mosquitoes and other insects. Look for products that contain active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus[^1^]. These ingredients help repel mosquitoes and reduce the risk of bites.

When using repellents on children and infants, it’s crucial to read the label carefully. Certain products approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are safe to use on children as young as 2 months old[^1^]. However, for infants, investing in mosquito netting to cover their outdoor spaces, such as playpens or strollers, is advised by Telford[^1^].

Understanding Mosquito Behavior

It’s important to understand what attracts mosquitoes to humans and how to minimize the risks. Mosquitoes have a preference for humans with type O blood and are also attracted to higher body temperatures[^1^]. They have receptors in their antennae that can detect specific chemicals in human sweat, making some people more attractive targets.

Mosquitoes are also drawn to standing water, including upright buckets, uncovered trash barrels, and clogged roof gutters[^1^]. Female mosquitoes, which are smaller in size, are the ones to watch out for. They lay an average of 100 eggs at a time and can get infected with viruses and parasites when they bite an infected species[^1^]. They are more active during dusk hours, according to Telford[^1^].

To minimize mosquito breeding grounds, it’s essential to overturn buckets of water, cover barrels, and keep gutters and bird baths clean[^1^]. By eliminating stagnant water sources, you can significantly reduce the population of mosquitoes around your home.


Protecting yourself from mosquitoes should be a priority, especially during peak mosquito seasons. By using effective products like insect repellents with recommended active ingredients and wearing appropriate clothing, you can significantly reduce the risk of mosquito bites and potential diseases. Understanding mosquito behavior, such as their preference for certain blood types and standing water, will help you take necessary precautions to stay safe.

For more information on West Nile virus and mosquito-borne diseases, you can visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website[^1^]. Stay informed and stay protected!


[1] Tufts University. (2023, August 10). Protecting yourself against mosquitoes when it is peak time for West Nile virus. Retrieved from /infectious-disease-information-21/disease-prevention-news-361/protecting-yourself-against-mosquitoes-when-it-s-peak-time-for-west-nile-virus-764166.html