With the global pandemic keeping many of us indoors for long distances, outings outside feel more like therapy than leisure. Whether you are on the beach, at the campsite or in your garden, not much can disturb a late summer idyll, much like a mosquito buzzing continuously in your ear.
Mosquitoes are also dangerous, of course, and carry diseases such as Zika, West Nile Virus, and Eastern equine encephalitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of vector-borne diseases, including mosquito-borne diseases, more than tripled in the US between 2004 and 2016. They also note that the vast majority of vector control organizations “are not critical of prevention and control capabilities. “In other words, you are alone.
Thankfully, there are now more ways to deal with mosquitos than just covering yourself from head to toe with a smelly DEET-based repellant. I've been working on insect and mosquito control products for Wirecutter (The New York Times Company, which reviews and recommends products) for over two years, interviewing researchers, scientists and manufacturers. I spent a long time on the phone with the American Mosquito Control Association and tested dozen of mosquito-related products – some successful, some not. Here are some that have been shown to be effective.
Spray repellants have a reputation for being oily and smelly. Fortunately, there are options that aren't. If you spend time outdoors, be it in the woods or strolling through the park, we recommend Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent (starting at around $ 7 per bottle). This EPA-approved product contains 20 percent picaridin, a chemical ingredient that protects against mosquitoes and ticks for up to 12 hours. It's just as effective as the notoriously strong-smelling DEET, but has no drawbacks: Picaridin is mostly odorless, does not feel overly smooth, and does not damage plastics and synthetic fabrics like sunglasses, rayon, and spandex.
Any repellant with a picaridin concentration of 20 percent should have similar effectiveness. However, Sawyer stood out for its nice, even spray, double safety cap, wide range of sizes available, and good availability at many major retailers.
Space protection agents
Spatial repellants are useful for times when it is not practical to spray coat your skin. You might just want to have dinner on the porch or enjoy some fresh air on the patio before signing up for the night. These devices release a small amount of repellant into the air, creating an area typically about 10 by 10 feet that is protected from mosquitos. Our favorite is the Thermacell Radius Gen 2.0 (about $ 50).
Unlike other spatial repellants, the Radius is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (most others use a small butane canister). The device, about the size of a mobile phone, heats a replaceable defense cartridge and distributes the odorless vapor on top of the device. The whole thing is so inconspicuous that it's easy to forget and leave it on. That's why we like the timer setting that turns it off automatically after 120 minutes.
The disadvantage of the Radius and all other spatial repellants is that a breeze will blow the repellant away and reduce its effectiveness. Repellent cartridges are available in 12 hour and 40 hour sizes.
For a budget version of a spatial repellent, we like the Pic Mosquito Coils (10-pack for around $ 10). They are much cheaper than the Thermacell Radius, but have additional disadvantages. Each is a green spiral the size of a coaster that sits on a small stand and raises it above the table surface. When the end is lit, the coil will slowly burn down like an incense stick. As it smoulders, it releases a repellent that contains a pyrethroid into the air.
Unlike the radius, the smoke is visible and has a smell. Each coil lasts about seven hours and, like other spatial repellants, loses effectiveness in an instant. The pic coils are supplied without an ashtray. So you'll need to put it on your own plate to keep the ashes off the tabletop. Due to the smoking embers, the pic coils also need to be carefully monitored given the potential fire hazard. Despite these drawbacks, this is an inexpensive and fairly easy way to keep mosquitos at bay.
Permethrin clothing treatment
If you're looking for protection from mosquitoes and ticks, treat your clothing and equipment – but not your skin – with a permethrin-based formula. Like mosquitoes, ticks can transmit a number of debilitating diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Permethrin protects tents, shoes, backpacks and clothing for up to six weeks or through about six washes. As with the spray protectants, the most important thing is to get a product with 0.5 percent permethrin. Our favorite is Sawyer insect repellant (starting at around $ 8 per bottle).
To treat an item, you really have to soak it so that a bottle of spray can be used up fairly quickly. According to Sawyer, one 12-ounce bottle can hold four pieces of clothing. In this case, it is inconvenient to treat an entire wardrobe, but it pays to treat all the items that you regularly wear outdoors. Also, look out for shoes or boots that you regularly wear when hiking. One study showed that those who wore permethrin-treated shoes and socks were 74 percent less likely to get a tick bite.
One very important thing about permethrin: when it's wet, it's very toxic to cats. So keep the cats away when you are spraying clothing and equipment. Once it's dried it's fine.
A simple fan
One of the easiest ways to keep mosquitos away when you're in a mostly stationary location (like a backyard patio) is with a simple fan. Mosquitoes have weak little wings and are not very strong fliers. Hence, creating a stiff breeze is often enough to keep them out. Any fan will do it (we like the Vornado 630 Medium Air Circulator).
Expert advice: keep the fan low, as the mosquito carrying Zika (Aedes aegypti) prefer to bite the lower extremities.
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