As a child, I can remember my sister and me running around the house, trying to escape the inevitable nightly mosquito spray down from our parents. I guess we should have listened to our instincts. Though my folks had the best of intentions, I now know the smell we were running from was deet. Deet is a potentially harmful chemical which can cause rashes, swelling and eye irritation. It also has a remote risk of neurological side effects. Why take the risk when natural products are more fun, and just as effective!

The first step to keeping mosquitoes away is understanding what attracts them. Mosquitoes like sweat, or rather, the lactic acid which is secreted through our sweat. Mosquitoes are attracted to the chemicals contained in your skin and the increased humidity around your body. They prefer cooler skin temperatures, which also play a role in attracting these pests to higher, cooler extremities. This might be one reason some people get attacked, while others don't.

While you might think wearing dark clothes will help protect you against mosquitoes, the opposite is true. Many mosquitoes use vision to locate hosts from a distance, and dark clothes are initial attractants.

Don’t breathe. Obviously, I am kidding, but you should know that carbon dioxide from the breath of humans and animals helps mosquitoes find their victims. A burning candle is another source of carbon dioxide, so make sure outside candles contain citronella oil, which keeps mosquitoes away.

These predators like flowery and fruity fragrances, which are common in a lot of women’s personal care products, so you might want to switch to different options during the summer. Choose organic varieties which contain rosemary, mint, clove, eucalyptus and lemongrass, all which foster anti-mosquito properties. Also, don’t buy laundry detergents or fabric sheets which contain flowery or fruity fragrances.

Make sure you don't have any standing water around your home. This will be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Don’t leave cans, cups or bowls outside where moisture could accumulate.

Placing the following natural herbs and flowers in pots around your deck or patio can help keep these little biters at bay (they are also great in a garden):

  • Rosemary. Also a great herb for cooking.
  • Marigolds. Marigolds keep bugs from eating your crops and mosquitoes don’t like the smell. Plus, they are pretty!
  • Lemongrass. This grass-like plant smells wonderful and contains natural citronella oil. You can also cut off the blades and roll them around your fingers; this will extract the oil from the plant which you can place on your skin as an effective repellent.
  • Garlic. Mosquitoes and bugs will stay away if you plant this natural healing food in your garden.

In my experience, using essential oils is the best way to keep the mosquitoes away (and it’s much gentler on your pocketbook). The following are my favorite anti-mosquito picks: lemongrass, peppermint, eucalyptus, clove oil and tea tree. Remember to dilute essential oils before applying:

Eucalyptus and Lemongrass Mosquito Spray4 ounce spray bottle 1 teaspoon eucalyptus 1 teaspoon lemongrass 4 ounces distilled witch hazelAdd ingredients to the spray bottle. Shake and apply generously.

If you are a camper or hiker like me, remember to build a fire, as smoke distracts mosquitoes. Also, eat plenty of garlic; seriously, it helps! Garlic seeps through your pores and acts as a natural repellant. Your breath might blow your friends out of the tent, but at least you will be bite- and tick-free. Native people used to spread cedar shavings around their dwellings and crushed needles all over their skin to keep the mosquitoes away. I have adopted this tradition, and it seems to be helpful. Remember to wear plenty of protective clothing and always enjoy the great outdoors (even if you don't care for its blood-sucking residents).