Summer Bug Bites - Keep the Critters Away & Treat Bites Naturally
Most of the time, you don’t know even know it’s happening. It isn’t until you feel a mysterious itch, then notice a red swollen patch of skin, and realize… you’ve been bitten. Again. Not only are bites uncomfortable, they also put you at risk of getting an infection, or catching a disease such as West Nile Virus.
You’re careful to eat mindfully, and reduce exposure to environmental toxins. So it wouldn’t make healthy sense to spray chemical bug repellant on your skin; the most common form is a pesticide known as DEET, (N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide). When applied to the skin, studies show DEET is absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed to your organs.
Like teensy winged vampires, Mosquitos, bite you because they live off of blood. And they can smell your sweetness. While that sounds more than a little creepy, weirdly enough, it can also be a good thing when it comes to repelling nature’s little fiends. So how can you protect yourself against these bloodthirsty creatures when they find you irresistible? Luckily, mosquitos have a heightened sense of smell, and there are certain natural scents they find unappetizing. Here’s how you can use them to your advantage…
*Before using essential oils and natural remedies, check side effects and with your doctor to make sure they are safe for you.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus
According to board-certified dermatologist, Caren Campbell MD, “oil of lemon eucalyptus shows some insect repelling potential.” However, more research still needs to be done. Also, exercise caution when using oil of lemon eucalyptus as it can irritate the eyes and has not yet been tested on children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is often used in combination with other natural oils, in over the counter remedies.
Pomelo Fruit, Lime, and Greater Galangal
On-going studies explore the effectiveness of essential oils verses chemical repellents… Although this particular study, Dr Campbell pointed out, is especially interesting because it used microencapsulated essential oils (oil wrapped in a stable layer) and discovered the oils were highly effective at stopping bug bites. Researchers found the oils deterred insects as well as chemical based DEET. What makes this study special is, often essential oils don’t work as well as chemicals because they operate at a disadvantage: being natural means they can oxidize quickly and lose potency. However, the micro encapsulated process, changes the game by keeping the oils fresh. This study is very important because it shows that oils are an effective treatment, if preserved. Essential oils used in the study were: pomelo fruit oil (citrus grandis), lime (C. aurantifolia) and greater Galangal (Alpinia galanga).
Citronella is an age-old mosquito repellent, extracted from lemongrass. It’s one that your great grandmother may’ve likely used. Trouble is, it seems to work unevenly. Most likely because formulations and ingredients vary so much. Citronella comes in oil, incense and candle form. So... if using citronella stay away from mass-produced products and opt for ones produced in smaller batches, that preserve the integrity of the oil.
Grow the plant, crush the leaves, or apply the oil directly to skin. It’s lemon scented leaves smell divine yet are unappealing to Mosquitos and will naturally send them flying in the other direction. Here’s a DIY recipe to make your own spray from The Nerdy Farm Wife.
In addition to its abundance of health benefits, a recent study showed that the fatty acids present in coconut oil have insect repelling potential, maybe even more potent than DEET. And since you ought to have a bottle on hand, if not, run out and get some! A terrific moisturizer, coconut oil is the ideal way to keep your skin soft and bite-free all year round.
If you forget to shield your skin and get stung, here are some holistic ways to take the sting out of being bitten...
Tea Tree oil
Is it tea… or a tree? What is tea tree oil? This miraculous oil is distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant. And it’s a wellness first aid kit in a bottle. It’s antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial, and helps relieve itching. If that’s not enough, it also accelerates the healing process. Use your clean fingertip to lightly apply to the entire area after being stung. Continue once a day until the bite is fully healed. Be careful, tea tree oil can irritate your eyes, so always fully wash it off.
Aloe Vera Gel
Either break off a leaf and extract the gel, or keep a bottle of the inner fillet in your fridge and apply to affected area. Avoid aloe gel with any additives. The fresher the better. If you can keep the plant in your home, that’s the best way to go.
Just because witch hazel is easy to find doesn’t mean it isn’t a great holistic fix. Dab on a cotton pad and press against sting. It works as a natural astringent, with powerful antiviral and inflammatory properties. Chill in the fridge during warm months and it will be especially cooling.