Personally, I try to steer clear of bugs and bug repellent to the best of my ability. My husband is not very fond of bugs either especially mosquitoes! I wish that I had a video to share of him running from a swarm of mosquitoes in Yosemite (on our Honeymoon) waving his arms, shaking his head, and generally looking like he was a mad hatter. Unfortunately mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance, they can also transmit disease. In much of the US there is concern that mosquitoes might transmit West Nile and ticks might transmit Lyme disease.
When it comes to ticks the most important thing to remember is to check yourself (and your kids) thoroughly (from head to toe) after an outdoor outing, especially in areas with brush or tall grasses. Ticks that have been properly removed within 24 to 72 hours of attaching are unlikely to transmit Lyme disease (so it is important to check early and often).
Mosquito bites are unfortunately unforgiving, and once bitten there is not much you can do! So the goal with mosquitoes is to keep them away!
Avoid the bugs: Get rid of the stink, whether it be salty sweat or sweet perfume, bugs like smells, so if you want to be bug free, keep it clean and clear. Mosquitoes are attracted to lactic acid and CO2, so dont run or breathe when you are outside. Just kidding. It might actually work better to get the bugs to avoid YOU. Several different companies are working on formulations that keep mosquitoes from populating grassy areas, basically natural insecticides using ingredients like soybean oil (suffocates the buggers) and garlic oil (keeps them away). One such product that appears to get good reviews is Mosquito Barrier. Ive not tried the stuff myself, but their site looks fairly convincing!
Stay inside at dawn & dusk: A good suggestion is to avoid being outside at dawn or dusk in mosquito infested areas as these are the littler buggers prime biting times. This is especially good advice for the very young and the elderly in areas with West Nile Virus.
Standing water eliminate it or Mix-it-Up: Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. If you have a pond, puddle, bird bath or other small (or large) body of standing water near your home mix-it-up on a daily basis (or at most every 2 days) or eliminate it completely. If you have a pond or pool look into other safe ways to eliminate mosquito larvae. I am also certain that Ive both heard and read about some sort of soy based product that can be put in ponds or standing water that interrupts the larvae development, but I could not find any good info online. If any readers are familiar with this, please send the information my way or comment below!
Use an insect repellent outdoors: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends an EPA-registered insect repellent such as those with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Personally, I do my best to stay away from DEET although I have been known to use it in generous amounts while camping. Hopefully, in the future I will be able to steer clear of DEET. If you do choose to use a DEET based product, beware that DEET can cause toxicity if it is over applied, especially in kids under the age of 8!!! Whatever you do please do not apply any sort of insect repellent to children under 6 months!
Picaridin was developed by Bayer and it supposedly surpasses DEET in being non-irratating and odorless (I do not have personal experience with Picardin). In addition, unlike DEET, Picaridin does not dissolve plastic! Nonetheless, Picaridin is another artificially derived chemical that comes with a list of precautions, so I found it rather encouraging to read numerous reviews that indicate repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus are highly effective.
The following non-toxic bug sprays get good marks:
Repel – Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent gets good reviews in regards to keeping away the skeeters.
Herbal Insect Repellent by Burts Bees also seems to be effective against mosquitoes, but may attract some other bugs
Our family has actually used All Terrain insect repellant and found it to be somewhat effective. It wasnt perfect, but it was much better than no application at all! And, they even offer Kids Herbal Armor that is supposed to be effective for children ages 6 months to 6 years.
Permethrin treated clothing: I also read recently that Permethrin treated socks and shoes are very effective at preventing ticks from jumping on to kids (or adults) while frolicking in the outdoors. And Permethrin treated clothing is effective at eliminating mosquitoes; however, Permethrin must never be sprayed directly on the skin and clothing treated with the stuff should only be worn after it has completely dried! Personally, Id consider it wise to keep away from anything that cant be sprayed directly on the skin. Checking for ticks is not such a big deal (Ive had a tick bite and lived to tell). And, there are other ways to avoid mosquito bites (Ive had Malaria and lived to tell.)
Further Reading: There are a lot of sites and articles on bug control, but I found a few that Id recommend: