Frugal Parenting (featured column)
by Rachel Keller
Warmer weather means more time outdoors which also means combating mosquitoes, bees, ticks, and other outdoor pests. While it is true that mosquitoes are attracted to some people more than others, you can prevent yourself from becoming a feast for some hungry insects without slathering on insect repellants loaded with ingredients that you can’t pronounce and that may possibly have detrimental effects.
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Avoid being outside in the early morning and evening hours when mosquitoes are most active. Also stay away from shrubs and standing water where mosquitoes are most prevalent.
If you will be where mosquitoes are prevalent, choose appropriate clothing: light, loose, and long sleeves, pants, and socks. It may seem strange, but for some reason, mosquitoes seem to be attracted to darker clothing (especially black, but also red) as opposed to lighter colors.
Try to stay cool and dry as mosquitoes are more attracted to you when you’re hot and sweaty.
Avoid perfumes and scented lotions. Instead, use unscented as mosquitoes and other bugs seem to be attracted to these scents.
Watch what you eat and drink. Female mosquitoes (the only ones that bite) seem to be attracted to the oil your body produces when you eat bananas and drink beer. On the other hand, consuming garlic or garlic tablets and Vitamin B may make you less appealing to mosquitoes and ticks.
Get rid of standing water which invites mosquitoes for breeding. Change the water in your bird bath or wading pool a couple times weekly. You don’t have to drain fish ponds as the fish will eat any larva.
Try planting marigolds on your property to discourage mosquitoes.
Use insect repellants that do not contain potentially harmful chemicals. Any one of the following would be effective and safe for you, your family, and pets: catnip oil, cinnamon leaf oil, citronella essential oil, clear liquid vanilla and extract mixed with olive oil. Burt’s Bees has a natural insect spray which is a combination of various natural plant oils: castor oil, rosemary oil, cedar oil, citronella oil, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, clove oil. Remember that you may have to apply these more often than you would an insect repellant made with DEET.
Maybe, despite all you do, you find yourself a magnet for mosquitoes. What can you do to successfully treat those bites?
A variety of essential oils, plants, and herbs can be quite effective:
1. Aloe Vera gel is very soothing on insect bites and beneficial for your skin, too.
2. Basil helps with the itching. You can apply crushed fresh herb or use the essential oil.
3. Calendula is another herb that soothes and moisturizes.
4. Chamomile is good for more than just a soothing tea. Try applying to the skin.
5. Cinnamon, which has antibacterial and antifungal properties, repels mosquitoes.
6. Cucumbers refresh tired eyes and soothe insect bites. Watermelon rinds and banana peels may also work.
7. Lavender essential oil is known for its calming effect, but it is also antimicrobial and great for mosquito bites.
8. Both lemons and limes are anti-itch, antibacterial, and antimicrobial.
9. Peppermint has a cooling sensation. Just as with basil, apply either the crushed fresh herb or use essential oil.
10. Try rubbing a cooled tea bag over the insect bite.
11. Tea tree oil is great for infections, wounds, burns, and other skin ailments.
12. Cold and/or heat. You can apply an ice pack, rub an ice cube, or run hot water over the affected area. Both heat and cold are quite effective for itching. An effective alternative to an ice pack, is freezing (or heating) a spoon and placing it on the affected area. Use common sense, however, so you don’t burn yourself. (If you’ve read my column on Treating Poison Ivy and Other Skin Rashes, you know that hot water is one of my favorite treatments for relieving itchiness.)
13. Salt is one of our favorite instant treatments for mosquito bites. Sprinkle a little salt in your hands and add a couple drops water. Rub the salt on the bite. Not only does it stop the itching, but it also helps to cleanse the bite.
14. Combine some baking soda with water (or witch hazel) to create a paste. Rub this on the bite. This is especially good for bee stings. You can also soak in a bath with baking soda.
15. Try soaking in a bathtub with two to three cups of apple cider vinegar or applying the vinegar on the insect bite.
16. I’ve never tried it, but a friend of mine says that onion slices are also effective on insect bites.
17. You may think that plantain is a weed, but it’s actually a perennial herb that’s both edible and medicinal. It grows in nearly any soil and is beneficial for various conditions, including removing stingers and alleviating the discomfort of bug bites and rashes. I first learned of this trick after one of children got stung by a bee. A friend picked a plantain leaf, chewed it, and put it on the sting to reduce the swelling.
18. If all else fails, try putting a piece of tape on the bite to prevent itching.
Are mosquitoes driving you crazy? Have you become a meal for some hungry insects? If so, try any one of the techniques mentioned above to make your outdoor experience more pleasant.
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Copyright © 2013 by Rachel Keller. All rights reserved.