Mosquitoes are out in full force and with an already confirmed case of West Nile in Kansas, it is important for people to protect themselves.
Those planning a Labor Day weekend picnic and trying to find a safe method to keep the mosquitos away might find a lot of options. But you could be surprised to find out what actually works.
Spray has been the way for generations, namely products with DEET, which experts insist is not dangerous.
"One of the great things about DEET is it's been around for a long time, since the 40s and 50s. We've got 60 years of research on the product," said Rick Miller, an agricultural and community development agent for the Johnson County Extension.
Miller said the key to insect repellent is odor.
"It's really the sweat from your body, the chemistry of your body as you perspire, that is attractive to mosquitoes and ticks and chiggers, and that is how they find you," Miller said.
Repellents cover that odor, hence natural products with strong citrus smells. But whether they work is really about how long they work.
Miller pulled some studies on the issue.
Citronella products score low. The top one lasts about 20 minutes. Next on the natural list is something that is also a cooking oil.
A block containing 2 percent soybean oil lasted an hour and a half.
But the only natural ingredient that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended is the oil of lemon eucalyptus.
At two hours, it is about equal to a 7 percent DEET spray.
A 25 percent DEET spray came in at five hours, but the lower concentration is billed as "soft on skin," because Miller said that is the main risk with DEET.
"Not so much that it is toxic, but that it is just really irritating to some people's skin," he said.
So what about mosquito-repelling bands?
The study, admittedly 10 years old, looked at bands with citronella and ones with DEET. Both lasted zero minutes.
Others may have also heard of the dryer sheet trick and rub it all over. Miller couldn't find any reputable study on that.
The truth is, Miller said, different people smell different.
So just like the same perfume will smell different on different people, most scent maskers work more or less effectively on different people.
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