If you are one of those people who seem to attract mosquitoes, you will know what it is like to scratch yourself raw or break out in huge lumps that drive you insane with itching. It may be getting cooler now, but it is still warm enough during the day for mosquitoes, and they function ‘best’ at around 26 degrees, become lethargic at around 15 degrees and cannot function below 10 degrees.

Mosquitoes are said to be the deadliest creatures to humans on our planet, with more than 1 million deaths a year attributed to the diseases they carry. Climate change is causing warmer winters in many places, and thus fewer of the hard frosts that cut down mosquito populations.

There are several options said to keep them at bay, one being plug-in devices, and you plug these right into electrical sockets, with the chemicals they expel said to be safe to use, even safe enough even around children, pregnant women, and pets, but reputedly only work close to the device. I personally have always shied away from them because of the risk of fire, and I don’t like the idea of leaving one plugged in and leaving it while the house is empty.

There are also plug-in devices on the market that use high pitched ultrasonic sounds, and even apps for phones. Some are supposed to emit dragonfly sounds to scare mosquitoes away – and as dragonflies are mosquito predators, theoretically the sound of one approaching is a mosquito repellent. In other cases, the sound is supposed to imitate a male mosquito's mating call, but there's no evidence to show that female mosquitoes with fertilized eggs will leave an area where there are mating males. But they are safe, whether they work or not is up to you to judge.

Citronella candles are also said to work, but seemingly only in the immediate area of the candle, and in fact contrary to popular opinion, the scent isn't toxic or irritating to mosquitoes. The smell masks human odours so that mosquitoes don't actually detect the presence of you, the potential host.

Wristbands? Whether emitting sonic sounds or chemical repellents, maybe they will at best protect your wrist only, with the rest of your body being left exposed.

Mosquitoes and many other types of insects apparently loathe the smell of essential oils. They will supposedly stay away if you place an oil diffuser in a good spot on your deck or porch, so this is another option to try. As is baby oil rubbed into your skin apparently – but neither of these options are guaranteed.

The deterrent that seems to be most effective is anything with DEET in it, with many bug repellents containing it, a chemical that people worry could be harmful to health or cause cancer, possibly because it is a synthetic chemical, but research shows these fears are unfounded and that DEET is safe when used properly. It interferes with the mosquitoes’ ability to smell, and they use their sense of smell to detect the carbon dioxide in our breath and the bacteria on our skin. DEET is able to interrupt this process by producing a smell that drives insects away, and makes your skin taste bad to them too.

According to one manufacturer, 7% DEET sprays last for up to two hours, while 98% DEET sprays protect you for ten hours. DEET is considered to be a safe insect repellent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DEET will not build up in your system; however, there are still reservations surrounding it, as it is toxic if swallowed and isn’t recommended for babies under 2 months old, and not recommended for toddlers either, as they are prone to putting their hands in their mouths and might accidentally ingest it.

True sufferers will say nothing is worse than getting into bed, and hearing that tell-tale high-pitched ‘eeep’ whizzing round the room, so I guess for them, anything is worth a try!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan