With the unseasonably wet spring and the cooler than normal temperatures that we’ve had this year, entomologists have predicted a very ‘buggy’ summer. Fortunately, there are things that we can do to help prevent that annoying buzzing near our heads and the red itchy after-bites.
First, know the source. Mosquitoes hatch out of stagnant water. Try to eliminate any sitting water near your home, trailer or campsite. Secondly, mosquitoes love light and fragrant scents. Try to minimize the fragrances you use in your daily routine (think hair products, soaps, lotions, deodorants, etc.) also wear light clothing so you can see if a mosquito has landed on you and going for the bite.
Finally know their enemy. Mosquitoes hate several smells, which you can use to your advantage. Although you can just grab any bug spray form the store, think twice before you spray it on your body. Most bug sprays contain DEET, which is used to prevent mosquito born illnesses like West Nile virus, malaria and dengue fever (the latter two of which we don’t need to be concerned with in Canada). The other less effective forms of bug spray contain pyrethrins, which are derived from chrysanthemum flowers. Although usually non-toxic, it can cause a host of symptoms, mostly breathing difficulties if inhaled in large doses.
DEET on the other hand is very toxic and if used long-term in high doses can cause quite severe symptoms including mood changes, insomnia and neurological damage1.
There are many natural solutions to bug spray. You can find a number of natural or ‘green’ bug sprays on the market if you know where to look. Although not as effective as DEET based commercial sprays, they are chemical and worry free.
Try using various essential oils that are distasteful to mosquitoes. Citronella (lemon balm) is the most well known bug spray alternative, but other essential oils such as thyme, lavender, rose geranium, eucalyptus, pennyroyal and cedar are also excellent choices to add to your bug spray.
**Pregnant women should consult with their doctors before using essential oils.
To make your own bug spray mix in a glass jar:
25-50 drops of essential oil
4 Tbsp olive oil or other carrier oils that are good for the skin (almond, jojoba)
2 Tbsp aloe vera or squeeze in the contents of one or two leaves of the plant (optional)
Shake to blend. Dab on skin.
Keep this and other essential oils in a cool, dark cupboard to preserve the quality.
If you have already been bit, use the contents of an aloe vera leaf directly on the spot to help with the itch. There are also many homeopathics that are specific for bug bites. Ask your Naturopath for a remedy that is specific for you.
1Medline Plus. Bug Spray Poisoning: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002763.htm