It’s that time of year when mosquitoes are on the loose. These creatures are not only annoying, but many of us know from painful experience that they transmit diseases. Last year, many Jamaicans were left bed-ridden due to chikungunya, and we are now being warned to beware the Zika virus, aka ZIKV. The Zika virus is borne by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same insect responsible for transmitting the dengue and chikungunya viruses and share similar symptoms. There is currently an outbreak in Brazil, and one case has been reported in the Dominican Republic.
So how do we protect ourselves? Below are some tips from the Ministry of Health.
Many Jamaicans are used to burning the good old ‘mosquito destroyer’ coils or bushes to chase away the pests, but the former contains harmful chemicals and the latter is also discouraged because of smoke inhalation concerns. Additionally, they are both fire hazards. In recent years, spray repellents containing DEET have become popular, but many people are concerned about potential ill effects.
We went diGging and found a number of essential oils that have been touted as natural repellents. Here are a few of them:
- Catnip oil – This insect repellent is derived from the nepeta cataria plant. It may offer mosquito protection for seven hours, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to research from Iowa State University, the essential oil found in catnip is about 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes.
- Neem oil – According to a study by the US National Research Council, neem oil is more effective than DEET. The results were confirmed by scientists at the Malaria Institute in India and in research cited in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association.
- Lemon eucalyptus oil – The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved eucalyptus oil as an effective mosquito repellent.
- Soybean oil – Research cited in The New England Journal of Medicine found that repellents made of soybean oil are just as effective as DEET-containing repellents.
- Citronella oil – Mosquito repellents containing 10 per cent citronella offer some protection. But University of Florida researchers say the protection may only last for 20 minutes at most.
- Lavender oil – It is best to dilute it in a carrier oil, such as sweet almond or coconut oil.
- Cinnamon oil – According to a study conducted in Taiwan, cinnamon oil can kill mosquito eggs and also act as a repellent against adult mosquitoes, most notably the Asian tiger mosquito.
- Castor oil – You will need to re-apply the oil every one to two hours for the best results.
- Rosemary oil – This is also great for deterring insect larvae.
- Thyme oil – In one study, hairless mice had 5 percent thyme oil applied to the skin, with a 91 percent protection rate.
- Lemongrass oil – Note that concentrated lemongrass oil may cause skin irritation if not diluted.
- Tea tree oil – Not only does it prevent bug bites, but it also treats affected areas.
- Peppermint oil – You can apply dabs of concentrated oil to focal points on your skin or clothes, or use a diluted formula to spray over broader areas.
- Clove oil – Be sure to dilute the clove oil before applying it to your skin, since it will irritate your skin in its pure form.
- Many of these oils can be harmful at full concentration, so make to dilute them with water or base/carrier oils. Another trick is to add the oils to your lotion.
- To make sure you’re not allergic to any of these oils, do a spot test on a small patch of skin for one or two days. If you suspect an allergic reaction, discontinue use.
- You can combine several oils, especially those that don’t work for very long on their own. Again, be sure to dilute!
- Witch hazel also works well as a base for the oils.
- Speak to an health care professional before using on babies and small children.