July 22, 2013 at 5:43 PM ET
Mosquito bites are red, itchy and annoying. And occasionally dangerous. “Some mosquitoes transmit West Nile virus, which has been on the rise in recent years,” says dermatologist and professor Larry Millikan, M.D., in Meridian, Mississippi. The illness can cause fever and weakness that persists for weeks, and in some people, lasting neurological symptoms or death. So you can enjoy your summer nights—bite free—experts share their tips to help you avoid mosquito bites in the first place.
Turn on a fan
Mosquitoes can’t fly in strong winds, according to the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA). Install ceiling fans on covered porches or use large box fans on your patio to stir up the air around you.
Make it hard for them to breed
“Get rid of standing water around your house and yard because that’s where mosquitoes lay their eggs,” says Millikan. Dump out extra water from flower pots and trays, buckets and pet dishes. Change water in kiddie pools and birdbaths regularly.
Put some clothes on
Exposing less skin is a low-tech way to keep mosquitoes from biting you. Mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn (though some species bite during the day). “Wear long sleeves or pants to cover exposed skin during peak hours,” says research chemist Ulrich Bernier, Ph.D., with the Agricultural Research Service, USDA in Gainesville, Florida. Because mosquitoes can bite through some thinner materials, spray your clothes with mosquito repellent as well. Go with light-colors—some mosquitoes are attracted to darker hues.
Citronella candles or torches repel mosquitoes, but if you're not a fan of the smell, or don't have any on hand, regular candles help, too. (Citronella doesn’t offer significantly more protection than other smoke-producing candles, according to the AMCA). Still, candles don't offer total protection against mosquitoes, so you should probably use bug spray, too.
Use bug lights
Light bulbs attract bugs, right? Not if you use yellow CFL bug lights. The yellow coating makes the light invisible to bugs, so you can still light up your porch or patio without getting swarmed.
Break out the bug spray
Insect repellant is a tried and true way to ward off mosquitoes, and there are plenty to choose from. In addition to DEET, found in products such as OFF! or Cutter, there are nontoxic insect repellents, as well. Natrapel with picardin, Repel and Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus contain natural oils and Avon Skin So Soft has a line of mosquito repellents.
Remember, insect repellents do just that: they repel, they don't kill. If you're going to be outside for several hours, you'll have to reapply to keep mosquitoes at bay. Some bug sprays evaporate faster than others, so read and follow the label for best results.
Drink less beer
More research is needed on this one, but a small study in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association showed that more mosquitoes landed on volunteers after they drank beer. So, go easy on the cold ones and maybe you can avoid getting bitten. At the very least, one less beer will be kind to your waistline!
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.