Going green makes sense for the planet, and often it’s the right choice for your family's health. Take bug sprays. Most conventional insect repellents contain 10%-30% DEET or 5%-20% of picaridin. These synthetic ingredients have proven to be very effective. However, you may be able to ditch the synthetics and try a few, effective plant-based alternatives.

One popular option is oil of lemon eucalyptus, which is as effective as lower concentrations of DEET, and is even a recommended alternative by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The smell can be a bit intense for some, but so is OFF! and other synthetic sprays. Try it out and see what you (and the mosquitoes) think.

Other natural insect repellents worth a try include mixtures containing the essential oils of geranium, cedar, lemon grass, soy (studies have shown Bite Blocker for Kids to be effective), peppermint or citronella. These natural preparations are far less toxic than conventional repellents, although not as effective or as long-lasting as DEET or picaridin. If you try this route, be sure to reapply frequently.

Another good, non-chemical insect repellent: Protective clothing. You may not want to hear this, especially during the blistering hot, dog days of summer, but mosquitoes can be kept at bay by wearing long-sleeved shirts, socks, and long pants (if you have to walk through tall grass, tuck your pant legs into your socks; you may think it’s a dorky fashion statement, but there’s nothing trendy about a tick bite). Opt for light colored clothing – mosquitoes find darker colors attractive. If you’re camping out consider using a mosquito net. Try to wear a hat that covers your head and the back of your neck.

Want to make your own natural bug spray? Add 20 drops each of these essential oils: peppermint, eucalyptus, and citronella to either 1/3 cup of distilled water to make a spray, or 1/3 cup of cooking oil (olive or corn oil will do) to make a rub. Whether using a squirt or spray bottle, shake well before each use. Not only will you smell lemony fresh but you should also have nicely moisturized skin.

Geography should also inform your decision on whether to go natural or not. If you live in an area with mosquitos that carry disease, you might want to use a stronger, DEET-based repellent.

Don’t forget the basic rules of using repellent use with kids courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Apply DEET sprays sparingly on exposed skin; do not use under clothing.
  • Do not use DEET bug sprays on the hands of young children; avoid applying to areas around the eyes and mouth.
  • Do not use DEET over cuts, wounds or irritated skin. Wash treated skin with soap and water after returning indoors; wash treated clothing.
  • Avoid spraying in enclosed areas; do not use DEET sprays near food.