Bugs are a part of summer, but don't let the fear of bugs (or repellents) prevent your enjoyment of the outdoors. If you find yourself having to use bug spray a lot, having a nontoxic bug spray is a must! Most bug sprays contain the toxic chemical DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), which can be very harmful if used incorrectly.
When bug sprays containing DEET are sprayed onto your skin, the DEET gets absorbed through the skin and enters the bloodstream. It pumps through your nervous system and has been proven to kill brain cells, causing neurological damage. It is especially dangerous for children. If you have heavy exposure to DEET, you may experience memory loss, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and shortness of breath. Mosquito bites aren't looking so bad now, huh?
That is until you remember the list of tick and mosquito-borne diseases like Lyme disease, malaria and West Nile virus. Hmmm. With these things in mind, there is good news! You can use natural insect repellents that do not contain any DEET, and prevent bug bites. Natural insect repellents can work just as well depending on the combination of essential oils and herbs in the product. Good oils to try or to look for on labels include Lemongrass Oil, Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, Catnip Oil, Cedar Oil, Peppermint Oil, and Neem Oil.
If you are in an experimental mood, click here for a list of homemade insect repellents that you can put together yourself. If mixing together your own bug spray is just not your idea of fun, no worries, there are many natural insect repellents available to purchase.
Recommended Brands are:
Organic Roots Mesquite Repellent (Our receptionist Mary swears by this one!)
All-natural Bite Blocker or All-natural Bite Blocker herbal spray
Bite Blocker Organic X-treme Insect Spray (Does have a strong smell)
Jason Natural Products Quit Bugging Me! Natural Insect Repellant Spray
When using a natural bug spray, keep in mind that they require more frequent application (about every 2 hours).
Lastly, if you do find yourself using bug spray with DEET occasionally, it is best to keep the following recommendations from the EPA's warning label in mind:
Do not apply to hands or near eyes and mouth of young children.
Do not use under clothing.
Do not apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
Avoid over-application of this product.
After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
Wash treated clothing before wearing it again.
Homemade Herbal Insect Repellents
Using essential oil mixtures as natural insect repellents are great way to keep the bugs away. These repellents are very easy to make, but feel free to mix, match, and experiment yourself!
Repellent Soap: Add 10-15 ounces of essential oils per ounce of liquid Castile soap (Dr. Bronner's soaps work well). Try essential oils such as lemon balm (citronella), pennyroyal, lavender, and rose geranium. Wash before and after spending time outdoors.
Homemade Insect Repellent Recipe: 10-25 drops essential oil. Try lavender, rose geranium (for ticks), coriander seeds, peppermint, cajeput and citronella. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel (optional)
Combine the ingredients in a glass jar; stir to blend. Dab a few drops on your skin or clothing.
Homemade Insect Repellent Recipe 2 25 drops essential oil (see above) 1/4 cup water or organic apple cider vinegar
Combine the ingredients in a glass jar. Shake to blend. Dab some on your skin or clothing.
An organic or natural insect repellent does not necessarily entail a safe insect repellent. If you use highly concentrated natural oils as repellents without diluting them first, the toxic and irritating qualities of the oils have the potential to cause skin reactions and other health issues.