With the summer weather comes mosquito and bug bites, especially as many of us in the Lake Country either live, or spend time, near the water. Pests usually leave you with a red bump and an annoying itch, but some bites can also lead to more serious conditions.
If you are visiting an area with high risk of disease from insect bites, such as Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa and Ethiopia, a commercial insect repellent might be in order. However, if you’re hanging out in your backyard, taking a hike, or going camping, natural repellent remedies are a healthier and safer option. Children are more sensitive to chemicals, so choosing a natural repellent can be especially important for them.
The good news is that it’s simple to make an effective, natural insect repellant with essential oils. When applying topically, essential oils should always be mixed with a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil (which remains liquid at all temperatures), almond oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, sunflower or avocado oil. A good ratio is 3 to 5 drops of essential oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil. It is always smart to spot test the mixture on a small section of skin and wait an hour to make sure there is no irritation or allergic reaction. Here are a few of the most common oils to consider:
Lemon eucalyptus oil: This oil has been used since the early 1900s as a natural repellent and smells a lot like the well-known citronella. The Centers for Disease Control has approved this oil as an effective ingredient in mosquito repellent. You can create your own batch of repellent using 1 part lemon eucalyptus oil and 10 parts sunflower oil or witch hazel.
Citronella: This common essential oil is used to make candles that, when burned, help keep bugs at bay. Burning citronella candles outside can provide 50% more protection against mosquitoes. If applied topically with a carrier oil, citronella can protect you for up to two hours.
Lavender: This popular oil has a fragrance that can repel mosquitoes with a more calming and tolerable smell. Lavender also has analgesic (pain relief) qualities that can calm and soothe the skin.
The following oils can help with other common summer pest issues:
Peppermint oil: This oil is not liked by most bugs, but especially mosquitoes and spiders. Mix peppermint oil and water in a spray bottle and use it in the corners of your home or ceiling to deter spiders and insects. If you already have a bite, mix a few drops of peppermint oil with a carrier oil and rub it on the bite topically to stop itching and cool the area.
Cinnamon oil: This oil can be used to kill off mosquito eggs. It also is a great snake deterrent. A plant store manager once told me to cut up the cinnamon stick brooms you find at the grocery store and sprinkle the pieces in outdoor areas where you would like to fend off snakes. You can also mix 4 to 8 drops of cinnamon oil and clove oil to a gallon of water and spray liberally. I have had many people tell me it is helpful to spray this mixture around dock areas and pine straw. (Note: Cinnamon and clove oils are toxic to pets.)
If you do get a bite or two this summer, there are a few natural remedies you can try. Applying a cold tea bag to a bite can help relieve the itch. The tea bag also acts as a poultice right on the bite (or bee sting) to pull out venom and potential toxins. The ingredients in white tea can be especially effective in reducing inflammation. Chamomile tea is another great option.
Beyond tea, you can also try rubbing a piece of raw onion, freshly cut garlic or banana peel on the bite to help soothe the irritation. Or head to the pantry for apple cider vinegar. A small amount of apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball can be rubbed on a bite to reduce inflammation and itch.
Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. In addition, the practice is committed to being a valuable source of information so that people can learn how to live a healthy lifestyle and prevent future illness. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.