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Alternative Mosquito Repellents

Ah summer: a time to slide into flip-flops and enjoy all that nature has to offer -- blue sky, fresh air, and ... mosquitoes!

A backyard barbecue isn't complete without those pesky bugs. That's where mosquito repellent comes into play.

Many conventional mosquito repellents contain the active ingredients DEET or picaridin. But there are more natural mosquito repellents available that may also work well.

If you live in an area where mosquitoes are more a mild nuisance, plant-based mosquito repellents often work just fine. They may be a reasonable alternative to conventional mosquito repellents.

But if you live in an area that is heavy with mosquitoes or you are prone to bites, you may not want to take any chances. Conventional mosquito repellents containing higher concentrations (23.8%) of DEET or picaridin offer the best protection.

Although it may be unsettling to apply chemical repellents to your skin, it may be better than the alternative -- being bit by potentially disease-carrying bugs.

"Natural" Mosquito Repellents

A mosquito repellent doesn't actually kill mosquitoes. Repellents work by making people less attractive to mosquitoes, so they're less likely to bite you.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says mosquito repellents that contain DEET or picaridin are safe for adults and children over the age of 2 months, when used correctly.

But there are other options that are deemed "natural" because they are derived from natural materials such as plants.

Here are some you might want to consider:

Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). This is a natural, plant-based oil. It works as well at preventing mosquito bites as products that contain lower concentrations (6.65%) of DEET.

PMD is a version of oil of lemon eucalyptus that is produced in a lab. Repellents containing OLE or PMD may provide up to two hours of protection.

If you decide to try OLE, make sure you buy the insect repellent version and not "pure" oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil). They aren't the same. The safety and effectiveness of the essential oil as an insect repellent is not clear. Also, OLE should not be used in children under age 3.