By now you've probably heard the bad news: We're in for a buggier summer than usual. Pests that usually would have died in the cold instead spent the unseasonably warm winter months breeding and waiting to feast.
Mosquitoes can carry threatening diseases like malaria, West Nile and encephalitis, but only 29 percent of people say they fear mosquitoes for health reasons, according to a recent survey conducted by OFF! Insect Repellents. Nearly 60 percent, however, say they fear mosquitos because of the itch.
Still, we're not about to let some pesky flying bugs ruin an entire summer of backyard barbecues, woodsy hikes or dips in the lake.
So what can you do to prevent bites?
Most commercial insect repellents contain one of two chemicals, DEET or picaridin. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that when these products are used according to the instructions on their labels, they are safe for both adults and children.
These conventional products offer the longest-lasting protection against mosquitoes, but concerns have been raised over allergic and other reactions to using strong chemicals on the skin.
Joseph Conlon, retired U.S. Navy entomologist and technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association tells The Huffington Post that these concerns have been "greatly overstated." He agrees that these chemicals may not be things you want to put on your infants, but says that toxicity-related reactions have been in situations where people neglected the instructions for use and over-applied repellent. "If you want to put DEET on your children, don't bathe them in it!" he says.
Still, there are more natural ways to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Keep in mind, though, that just because a repellent comes from a natural source, doesn't always mean it's safe. Conlon gives oil of cloves as an example. In a low-concentration, it's a pleasant smelling oil, but in very high concentrations, as in the amount that would be required to repel mosquitoes, as it has been rumored to do, "will burn a hole through your skin," he says.
Also, if you do choose to use an essential oil as a repellent, you might find yourself reapplying more often than is directed, since many are only effective for short periods of time. Be sure to follow all instructions for use.
Click through the slideshow below to see which methods are backed by solid research and which Conlon says to skip.
Natural Ways To Prevent Mosquito Bites
For more on skin, click here.