Green Living

Fight the Bite

Follow our 9 tips to bug-proof your summer, naturally
Fight the Bite
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Are you a magnet for mosquitoes? If you're the only one being eaten at outdoor barbecues, follow these nine simple strategies for keeping skeeters away this summer.

1. Remove standing water. Keep bugs at bay by eliminating their breeding grounds–stagnant pools of water. Seal or drain the bird feeder, any water features in the garden (such as a human–made pond), and the rain barrel.

2. Wear loose clothes. Cover skin with loose-fitting clothing, as mosquitoes can bite right through tight fabric. Light-colored clothing allows you to notice and swat mosquitoes.

3. Skip sweets. Don't tempt mosquitoes by consuming sugar or caffeine, says Laurie Steelsmith, N.D., a naturopath in Honolulu. "Both can rev up your metabolism," she says, increasing carbon dioxide and lactic acid. (Mosquitoes find their targets through sensing carbon dioxide output–every time you exhale–and lactic acid buildup.) A 2002 Japanese study suggests that drinking beer may also attract mosquitoes, so consider teetotaling (at least while outside).

4. Apply repellent. Avoid perfumes and colognes, which make you smell delicious to mosquitoes. Instead, use insect repellents containing geraniol, soybean oil, or lemon eucalyptus, which masks your scent thus reducing the likelihood of bites.

5. Use mint. Rub fresh mint or crushed beautyberry leaves (common in the southeastern U.S.) on your skin to repel biters, suggests Hong Jin, L.Ac., a professor at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine professor. But be sure you're not allergic to fresh plant oils; you don't want to replace one itch with another.

6. Light a flame. Linalool or geraniol candles can ward off mosquitoes, as long as you stay within three feet of the candles, says new research from Israel. If you're headed for a campground or have a fire pit in your backyard, Jin suggests a traditional Chinese method: burning dried mugwort or lavender.

7. Turn on a fan. "Mosquitoes can only fly about eight miles per hour," Steelsmith says, so a fan can help keep them away.

8. Screen out bugs. Install screens on all windows, and sleep under a mosquito net if you're often bit during the night.

9. Take care of bites. Steelsmith dabs essential lavender and peppermint oils onto her bites. "The lavender has anti–inflammatory effects, and the peppermint is a counter–irritant, so I don't feel the itch," she says. Another option: Apply three parts baking soda mixed with one part water to bites. Baking soda helps neutralize insect poisons and balance skin pH, says Arm & Hammer researcher Steve Bolkan, Ph.D.