One of my favorite things about summer is a backyard soiree. What’s not to love? The atmosphere, the company, the smell of food slowly cooking on the grill, cold drinks and maybe even a fire pit – all the ingredients for a great outdoor bash. But as the sun goes down, you may realize you have a few unwanted guests. I’m talking – of course – about those pesky seasonal bugs. And while you chat with friends about the summer novel you’re devouring, you may just be a sitting magnet for bites and stings.
Besides the awful itching, swelling and pain that surrounds being bit, you also risk contracting debilitating diseases carried by common insects. The next time you’re at a friend’s BBQ, camping or hiking, before you reach for the DEET *(which studies have shown causes brain cell death in the memory and motor control parts of the brain, among other harmful effects), try these natural treatments, repellents and preventions.
For mosquitoes -
These bugs are most commonly drawn to water, sweat, dark colors and blood. Avoid having standing water around as this is where eggs can be laid. Attempt to stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are more abundant. When outside – if the heat index allows for it – wear long sleeves and loose-fitting pants in light colors. A few brands to try: geraniol-based Bug Band Spray Lotion ($6 for 4 ounces; bugband.net), BiteBlocker Xtreme Insect Repellent – a soy-based insect repellent with coconut oil, geranium oil, citric acid, lecithin, and soybean oil ($9.95 for 6.7 ounces; isabellacatalog.com) or TheraNeem Organix Herbal Outdoor Spray ($9 for 4 ounces; organixsouth.com) which contains neem, lemon and eucalyptus oils.
For ticks -
Carries of Lyme Disease and the Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ticks are more than just annoying insects. Like mosquitoes, they are attracted to blood and carbon dioxide. Again, try wearing long sleeves and long pants in light colors and boots instead of sandals in areas where ticks could be present. As soon as you get indoors, take a shower and do a thorough tick check. If you’re bitten, remove the tick completely with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, clean the area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic. Make an appointment to see your doctor if redness occurs around the bite or if you experience fever, headache and muscle or join ache. Try: geraniol-based repellent Buzz Away Extreme ($10 for 4 ounces;quantumhealth.com) or Citronella Mist blended with long-trusted citronella, lemon, eucalyptus, catnip and lavender ($9 for 8 ounces; herbariasoap.com). For removing ticks, also try Pro-Tick Remedy Tick Remover ($5; rei.com), then apply tea tree oil or witch hazel.
*Where there’s real danger of contracting malaria or dengue fever, using the chemical repellent DEET would be wise. Under less serious circumstances, try natural bug-specific prevention treatments that are less harmful and smell fantastic.