Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Home remedies to repel mosquitoes are effective ways to defend yourself from West Nile Virus.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2003]
Origins: If we had a frog, we'd be tempted to drop it down the back of whoever wrote this. Once again inboxes have been flooded with yet another "here are easy ways to protect your loved ones" mailing. Concern about the danger of attack from mosquitoes bearing the dreaded West Nile Virus has made combating the pesky critters an even greater priority than in earlier years (when only annoyance and itchiness were at stake), making these bits of
The truth is although many home remedies and oddball uses of everyday products do serve to repel mosquitoes somewhat, they don't work very effectively for very long. If you're worried about West Nile, douse yourself in a product that contains DEET rather than entrust your safety to used dryer sheets, VapoRub, vanilla, frogs, marigolds, or any other item touted by even your closest friends.
DEET is a chemical compound that effectively repels mosquitoes. It does not kill the critters; it just makes them unable to locate those wreathed in its essence. (Most mosquito repellents, despite the nomenclature, don't technically "repel" mosquitoes; they block the receptors on mosquitoes' antennae for the aspects of human beings — moisture, warmth, body odor, exhalation of carbon dioxide — which attract the critters.) DEET has been used by many millions of people worldwide for decades, and it's considered safe when used according to directions. Some concerns have been raised about how safe it might be to use on children, so follow directions carefully when applying
According to the first study to scientifically compare a wide range of products for their effectiveness in repelling mosquitoes, most insect repellents containing herbal oils proved far less effective than those containing DEET. This study appeared in the
Mark Fradin and Jonathan Day of the University of Florida tested
For decades rumor has held that Skin-So-Soft Bath Oil is an effective counter to mosquitoes, yet a 1993 Consumer Reports analysis found it ineffective for that purpose. Because so many people were buying the product for its purported mosquito combating properties, in 1994 Avon added a non-DEET repellent and a sunscreen to the popular bath oil and began marketing the new concoction as Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Repellent. Avon disputes the 2002 results posted in the New England Journal of Medicine study, claiming its Bug Guard Repellent works for three hours, not the
Folks delight in looking for homegrown solutions to various problems. Part of this urge is a need to feel in control, and part is a distrust of science, but part is also a recognition that kitchen wisdom has proved right on a number of past occasions. Besides, people love feeling they've been entrusted with or have stumbled upon valuable pieces of information unknown to others of their acquaintance. (We all want to feel special, after all.) Yet the desire to seek out folk remedies has at times caused folks to place their faith in the outlandish, such as the notion that burying a statuette of
In 2002 we saw another mosquito-related "wisdom of the inbox" piece, one which advised folks that placing bowls of water containing the dishwashing soap
Barbara "bug report" Mikkelson
Last updated: 18 August 2007
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.