If you want to keep the bugs away this summer then natural remedies are far safer and just as effective as the the toxic chemicals in over the counter insect repellents. Most commercial insect repellents contain DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide), a pesticide that enters your blood stream and can cause a number of harmful side effects to your organs.
A study of DEET on rats showed that it caused death of brain cells. The chemical has been proven to enter the bloodstream when applied to the skin and researchers believe that heavy exposure to it or other insecticides can cause headache, loss of memory, fatigue, weakness and muscle and joint pain and shortness of breath in humans. It is one of the toxins that is thought to have contributed to Gulf War Syndrome.
The skins of babies and children are much more absorbent and their developing nervous systems are more vulnerable and particularly susceptible to damage of nerve and other cells. It pays to look for alternatives to chemicals that may be harmful.
A newer alternative chemical insect repellent to DEET is Picardin is advertised as odorless, non toxic, and non-injurious to clothing and tents. It is however classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as “practically non-toxic”. It apparently does not penetrate the skin. Avon’s Skin So Soft Bug Guard is one of the many products that contain it.
Health conscious people are turning to natural alternatives for themselves and their children to stop the bites.
Natural Alternatives to Toxic DEET
Many aromatic plant oils naturally repel mosquitoes, midges and flies. Many natural products contain a combination of oils such as citronella, rosemary, bergamot, geranium, lemongrass, and peppermint oils. Citronella and oil of lemon eucalyptus are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC).
Neem oil, pressed from the seeds of the Indian Neem tree is a very powerful insect repellent. Just a hint of its smell seems to keep the insects away and it is particularly effective against malaria mosquitoes.
A UK company has developed Citriodiol® a synthetic version of the oil that is obtained from the eucalyptus citriodora tree. It is registered with the EPA as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus and known as Mosi-guard in the UK. It has been extensively tested and has been found to be effective against a wide variety of biting insects. It is available in many different countries under different names. Find out here: http://www.citrefine.com/products.html
One problem with natural insect repellents is that they usually have to be applied more frequently than the chemical ones. Lewey’s Eco Blends formerly known as Buzz Off is one that claims to be effective for up to 4 hours. It contains rosemary, thyme, lemongrass, geranium and peppermint.Studies have shown that it is still 94.7% effective after 4 hours and more effective than 6% to 10% DEET.
Make your own spray with these recipes:
5 drops Eucalyptus
2 drops Geranium
4 drops Lemon
1 drop Peppermint
1/4 teaspoon olive oil
3 T. water (distilled if possible)
Pour all ingredients into a 2-ounce spray bottle and shake to blend. Spray on exposed areas of the skin. Re-apply every 2 hours.
Or try this recipe:
20 drops Eucalyptus oil
20 drops Cedarwood oil
10 drops Tea Tree oil
10 drops Geranium oil
2 oz. carrier oil ( such as Jojoba )
Mix together in a 4 oz. container. Apply to skin as needed avoiding the eye area. Keep out of reach of children. Test on a small area of skin for sensitivities .
Protect yourself from insects
Insects are attracted by skin odors and carbon dioxide from exhaled breath. The active ingredients in repellents make the person unattractive for feeding but there are a few other things you can do to help deter them.
- Avoid being outdoors for long stretches at a time when you are hot as you release more carbon dioxide.
- Try not to be outdoors after an intense workout. Vigorous exercise can result in significant lactic acid build-up in your muscles, and lactic acid is a strong attractant of mosquitoes.
- Eating salty foods can also cause you to produce higher-than-normal amounts of lactic acid. Avoid them where possible.
- Perspiration attracts mosquitoes via the chemicals it contains so if you perspire heavily wipe it off regularly.
- Wear light colored clothing as dark clothing attracts the bugs.