Mosquitos are bad news, and not just because they’re dreadfully annoying. Believe it or not, mosquitoes are the world’s deadliest animals to humans, thanks to the many diseases they carry. Whether or not you live in an area with a high risk of malaria, chikungunya virus, West Nile virus, or Zika virus, it’s a good idea to prevent mosquito bites by arming yourself with mosquito repellent.
But what repellent really works? We all know that DEET is an excellent mosquito deterrent, but many people are wary of over-using this chemical-laden spray. Are there alternatives?
There are alternatives to DEET mosquito repellents, but their effectiveness is doubtful.
You may have heard of using vitamins B1 and B12 to repel mosquitos. These oral supplements are natural, easy, and far less stinky than traditional mosquito spray, but do they work? Read on to find out.
Why do Mosquitos Bite?
Before we launch into a discussion on what keeps mosquitos away, let’s talk about why mosquitos bite in the first place.
Contrary to popular belief, mosquitos do not bite because they need to feed on human blood. Mosquitos bite in order to get enough protein to produce eggs. The more blood they get from you, the more blood-sucking baby bugs they can spawn. Yet another reason to avoid mosquito bites!
You’ve probably noticed that mosquitos seem to prefer some people more than others. I know they love me more than anyone else in my family! On any given outdoor excursion, you can see a cloud of mosquitos hoovering above me… and only me. I have always wondered why this is.
Some people believe mosquito attraction has to do with how many bananas or onions you eat, but research has found that it has a lot more to do with the carbon dioxide you produce. People with high metabolisms and heavier people produce more carbon dioxide, and they are likely to get bit more.
This is not the only reason you might be more prone to mosquito bites than the guy next to you. There seem to be a variety of factors than researchers are only beginning to discover, from the amount you sweat to the temperature of your body.
Whatever the case, mosquitos are easily attracted and hard to keep away. People have been trying for millennia to combat these tiny monsters!
Fortunately for us, we live in an age when mosquito repellent is easy to obtain. But what substances work the best, and can alternative repellents be just as effective? We’ll talk about this in the next section.
Old Studies, New Results: Supplements to prevent Mosquito bites
Vitamins B1 and B12 became marginally popular repellents in the 1960s, after a study concluded that taking oral supplements three times a day successfully repelled mosquitos.
The study alleged that the reason mosquitos are more attracted to some people than others has to do with skin odor (which may be true), and claimed that B vitamins create a skin odor that is offensive to mosquitos.
However, later studies, which were performed by more stringent, modern standards, found that vitamin B supplements had little to no effect on mosquito bites in subjects.
Currently, the American Mosquito Control Association does not recommend using Vitamin B as a mosquito repellent. They even specifically state that it is not an acceptable or efficacious way to ward off mosquitos.
Although scientific evidence and the experts say Vitamin B is ineffective against mosquitos, some individuals claim that Vitamin B really does keep the mosquitos away. Do a quick search on the internet, and you will find hundreds of people on forums and blogs swearing that these supplements are just the thing to ward off pesky mosquitos.
Could it be that Vitamin B is effective for some people and not others? Maybe the vitamin interacts with other compounds in the body or in someone’s diet to make them less appealing to mosquitos. Maybe. But maybe not.
In any case, it is best to trust peer-reviewed scientific research over a nameless internet personality, especially if you are in an area where mosquito-borne illnesses are a problem.
If you want to try taking Vitamin B supplements as an experiment while gardening in your backyard in Detroit, the worst you will likely encounter is a handful of itchy mosquito bites. But you certainly should not tempt fate if you are traveling on safari through malaria-plagued Tanzania. Better safe than sorry… or sick… or dead.
Scientific research tells us that the only effective way to combat mosquitos is through old-fashioned DEET repellent.
One study found that even semi-effective DEET alternatives (such as lemon eucalyptus oil) are unsuitable for high-risk areas, as they do not come close to providing the protection that you can get from DEET repellent.
While regularly spraying chemicals on your body does not sound very appealing, this is currently the only way you can ensure that you will stay free from itchy bites and dangerous diseases. You may not like it, but the potential effects of DEET absorption are far less perilous than the effects of contracting a deadly mosquito-borne illness.
As much as we would prefer to take a natural, oral vitamin tablet to keep away the mosquitos, vitamins B1 and B12 have been found to be ineffective.
In order to combat annoying mosquito bites and deadly viruses, you must use DEET spray whenever you are around mosquitos. It may be messy, smelly, and full of chemicals, but it’s currently the best option the world has to offer.
If you want to avoid mosquitos, you’ll have to do it the way it’s been done since DEET was invented: cover your body with clothing as much as possible, and generously spray exposed skin with DEET repellent.
Convinced there must be a better way? Maybe you can be the first to discover a truly effective chemical-free mosquito repellent! Hey, anything is possible.