Bug bites are a summer bummer. Although they’re common in the warmer months, bites are mostly preventable. Follow these tips, including natural repellent options, to help you and your family avoid the itch.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using insect repellents containing DEET when needed to prevent Lyme disease from ticks and West Nile, Zika and other viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. They suggest using a repellent with no more than 30 percent DEET. Surprisingly, the greater percentage of DEET does not offer more bug protection, instead it refers to the length of time DEET is effective.
Natural and Chemical Free Bug Repellents
- Lemon Eucalyptus Oil: A natural alternative to DEET and recommended by the CDC. Studies have shown this to be effective in warding off mosquitoes. Caution! Lemon eucalyptus may be poisonous if ingested in high quantities so keep away from little ones.
- Peppermint Oil: This natural insecticide is a “hot oil”, which means it can cause a warm sensation when applied directly to skin. To avoid this, dilute the oil with a carrier oil, such as canola.
- Lemongrass Oil: This oil contains a high concentration of a chemical component called citral, which works as a pesticide.
- Fan Usage: Mosquitoes are bad fliers – who knew? If you don’t have an outdoor ceiling fan, place an electric fan outside during your next gathering to keep mosquitoes away.
Cover Up With Breathable Layers in Light Colors
It’s important to realize exposed skin is vulnerable skin. Be sure to tuck in shirts and secure buttons. Dress in breathable layers — pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks and closed toed shoes offer an additional deterrent to bugs beyond bug repellent, and light colors will also help keep you cool. Bug repellent can also be sprayed on clothing (recommended if you or your child has sensitive skin). Remember, never spray bug repellent on an exposed cut to the skin or near the eyes. Also, wash clothing sprayed in insect repellent before being worn again.
Stay Fragrance Free
Scent certainly plays a role in how appealing humans are to some biting beasts. Beware of your scented shampoo, soap or body lotion in the summer months as they can unintentionally make your family vulnerable to bites.
Avoid Being Outdoors at Dawn and Dusk
Mosquitoes are especially active at times when the sunlight is filtered instead of directly overhead. Ultimately the best protection for your family is to stay indoors at these times.
Separate Sunscreen from Bug Spray
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend products combining sunscreen and bug repellent. Why? Because sunscreen wears off faster and may need to be reapplied more often and in larger amounts than bug repellent. In general, the CDC recommends using separate products, applying sunscreen first and then applying the repellent. Limited data shows a one-third decrease in the sun protection factor (SPF) of sunscreens when DEET-containing insect repellents are used after a sunscreen is applied. Take the time to apply each product separately to yourself and your child.
Using Bug Repellents Safely
- Never apply bug repellent to children younger than two months.
- Spray bug repellents in outdoor areas and avoid breathing them in.
- Help apply insect repellent on young children. Supervise older children when using any product.
- Do not spray insect repellent on cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- The EPA emphasizes to carefully read and follow the label instructions of any bug repellent product