Pesticides: Summer Bug Protection
Summer is breeding time for bugs, which brings increased exposure to mosquitoes, ticks, and various stinging insects. How do we avoid the use of harsh chemicals and still protect our skin and our health?
With proper precaution and preparation, there's no reason you can't enjoy the great outdoors this summer!
Before we look at applying and spraying, let's consider a few helpful tips for dealing with bugs:
- Do not wear fragrances. Bugs are already drawn to hormones, pheromones, and chemicals released in our sweat. No need to add any extra scents to attract them!
- Eat garlic and drink 1-2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, as insects are repelled by these.
- Wear plenty of clothing. Keep well covered. Pull socks over pant cuffs. Avoid bright clothing.
- Shower quickly after exposure to bugs, especially ticks.
- When camping, throw sage, rosemary, and/or lemon balm leaves on the fire to reduce bugs.
Most insect repellents are filled with chemicals such as DEET, permethrin, and metofluthrin. The risks may outweigh the benefits when it comes to direct applicaton on the skin. The EPA offers these warnings when using DEET:
- Do not apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- Do not apply to hands or near eyes and mouth of young children.
- Do not allow young children to apply this product.
With warnings such as these, it makes sense to consider more natural approaches.
Natural products such as Buzz Away and Bite Blocker are a great alternative. Or you can make your own!
- Soybean/Lemongrass Oil
- 1/2 c. organic soybean oil (Soybean oil has natural repellent properties. Be sure to choose organic. Available from online retailers such as Amazon.)
- 15 drops each of the following essential oils: lemongrass*, geranium, eucalyptus
- Several drops neem oil for added protection (optional)
Combine in container and shake. Allow to sit for one hour before using. Use within one year.
* Lemongrass is a close relative of citronella, which has known insecticidal properties. Citronella essential oil can be used in place of lemongrass (or use both!).
- Lemon Spray
- 2 c. witch hazel
- 1 tsp. vegetable glycerin or small dab of liquid castile soap
- 20 drops citronella essential oil
- 20 drops lemongrass essential oil
For more practical help on natural ways to cope with mosquitoes, see How to Repel Mosquitoes Safely from the organization Beyond Pesticides.
When a bug bites, it injects a bit of saliva into your skin. This saliva and your body's reaction to it causes the unpleasant itch. Here are some ideas for alleviating the problems associated with bug bites.
- Numb the bite (or bites) with an ice cube. Add a paste of baking soda and slight amount of water. An even better option for paste is calcium bentonite clay.
- Add 1 c. baking soda to lukewarm running bathwater and soak for 20 minutes. Add ground oatmeal for additional relief.
- Add a drop of neem oil directly to the bite. Neem relieves many types of skin irritation.
For more suggestions for natural bite treatments, see this article.