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Things You Need to Know About Bug Spray

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Photo courtesy of whattoexpect.com.

In summer, you’re living your best lake life. But then, after only five minutes outside, mosquitos start landing and biting. Ugh. Fortunately, you can deal with these pests by installing ceiling fans and screens. But when you’re away from your lake home, there’s one established method for keeping the bugs at bay — bug spray. It’s almost synonymous with the smell of summer. Despite its widespread use, there’s a lot of unanswered questions you may have about bug repellent. At Lake Homes Realty, we’re here to answer them.

Does Bug Spray Actually Work?

Photo courtesy of Gud Gear.

In short, yes! Bug spray works by repelling insects rather than killing them. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide in our breath, sweat, and pores because it helps them find food (i.e., your blood). Mosquitos can detect carbon dioxide from up to 35 meters away! Essentially, bug spray works by disguising your scent. 

To achieve a scent that repels, most products use DEET — the most well known and widely tested active ingredient in bug spray. The U.S. Army first developed DEET in 1946, and it’s been in public use since 1957. Today, the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved 120 DEET products. Natural plant-based mosquito repellents are popular as well, and plenty of natural ingredients repel mosquitos. However, according to the National Poison Control Center, they do not last as long as synthetic products. 

How Should I Apply Bug Spray?

Photo courtesy of Getty Images via Huffington Post.

Unlike sunscreen, more is not better when it comes to bug spray. Most repellents can be harmful in large quantities. Joseph Conlon, a technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association, instructs, “ALWAYS apply according to the label specifications. The label is a federal law. If you over-apply, you are violating federal law.” Instead, you should apply one smooth layer over the exposed skin, ideally from 4-8 inches away.

Because bug repellent contains pesticides, it’s important to avoid applying it to the face, hands, and open wounds. Also, please do not allow children to apply repellents to themselves. The risk of getting the spray in their eyes is too high. 

After applying, keep in mind that lotions take 20 minutes to set in, while sprays provide protection immediately.

Which Goes on First: Bug Spray or Sunscreen?

Photo courtesy of MrsFields.com.

Sunscreen first, then repellent. If you think it’d be simpler to combine them, don’t. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend lotions or spray products that mix sunscreen and repellent. When wearing both, keep their different application times in mind. While sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours (though this varies based on sweat, swimming, etc.) bug spray lasts at least four hours. 

Is it Ok to Sleep with Bug Spray On?

Photo courtesy of Caleigh Waldman via the New York Times.

Since most bug sprays are chemical, it’s good to wash it off when you go into your lake house. However, if you fall asleep after a long day in the sun, you’re probably fine. Joseph Conlon comments, “Repellents are generally quickly metabolized and excreted, so there is probably little harm as long as one is applying the proper amount.” Just be sure to never spray indoors, for risk of inhaling the fumes! 

Which is the Most Effective Bug Spray?

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The first rule — always look for an EPA registration number. From there, it’s up to personal preference. REI has a comparison chart with the pros and cons of different brands. You can also use this search tool to identify EPA approved insect repellent. However, some products are ineffective. According to these mosquito repellent testers, you should skip the bracelets and citronella candles. For tried-and-true bug sprays, here are some products to try: 

What bug sprays work best for you?


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