Mosquito season is upon us with a vengeance. And, since the arrival of West Nile disease a few years ago, mosquitoes are now a health hazard, not just a nuisance. What’s best to keep them from eating us alive?
The most popular repellents contain the chemical DEET (which is the active ingredient in the famous Watkins insect repellent – which now comes in a spray pump btw). There are a few safety concerns about DEET, however. A number of cases of seizures and 4 deaths have been associated with DEET, but these are very rare. Another study found that increased DEET exposure correlated with increased insomnia, mood disturbances and impaired cognition (thinking) in a group of Everglades National Park employees. Children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable to toxicity. Use repellents sparingly on children (don’t let them apply it on themselves) and do not apply to their hands (they rub their eyes and put their fingers in their mouth). Use loose clothing and netting to minimize the need for repellent.
Fortunately there are effective non-toxic natural alternatives. One disadvantage of many natural repellents is they require more frequent applications.
• Citronella oil is a popular choice but may irritate skin
• Lemon eucalyptus has been shown to be as effective as DEET but is hard to find
• Other essential oils with insect repelling properties include catnip, clove, eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, neem, peppermint and tea tree
• Eating raw garlic is a folk remedy some people swear by (and others swear at)
To mix your own repellent, use 1 part essential oil to 10-20 parts carrier oil (such as light edible oils or witch hazel). Apply every hour or so by rubbing on exposed skin or spraying on skin and clothing. Or buy one of the prepared natural repellents such as Buzz Away (which has a new stronger formula effective for 4-8 hours).
Enjoy a bug-free summer!