The official first day of summer isn’t until later this month. But with Memorial Day under our belts, most of us have shifted into summer mode already.
That means more picnics, barbecues and outside time. And of course, it means more contact with mosquitoes too.
Mosquito bites aren’t just itchy and annoying either. They can spread diseases including Zika, West Nile virus, encephalitis, and even dengue fever-right here in the United States. And experts say the rates of mosquito-borne illnesses have been on the rise since 2004.
DEET is the number one chemical insect repellent. And no question, the stuff works.
But for some folks (like me) the potential cost in the form of troubling side effects isn’t worth the risk for everyday use.
Some of the reported side effects include…
- muscle and joint pain
- memory loss
- shortness of breath
- burning lips
- temporary numbness
- disorientation or dizziness
Reportedly, DEET could potentially interfere with the nervous system or cause DNA damage as well.
Natural mosquito repellent can beat bugs too
If DEET isn’t for you—and you’re not traveling to a mosquito hot spot or at high risk—there are other options. Essential oils can be used as effective, all-natural mosquito repellents instead.
They’re a safer and healthier way to enjoy the summer without having to deal with flying pests or dangerous chemicals. Following are five of our favorites.
1. Greek catnip oil:
You’ve likely never heard of Greek catnip oil. But experts say it can be a good replacement for folks who don’t want to use chemical repellents.
According to the a study conducted at Iowa State University found this essential oil is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET. And found the mosquito repelling effects last for up to two hours.
To make a simple mosquito repellent spray mix a cup of witch hazel, one cup of water and around a half a teaspoon of catnip essential oil together. Pour into a spray bottle, shake well and spritz on skin as needed.
2. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE):
Oil of lemon eucalyptus has a pleasant scent. And it’s one of the longest lasting of the all-natural bug-battling options. OLE is an EPA-registered mosquito repellent that the CDC says has been proven safe and effective.
There are some commercial OLE based sprays available or you can make your own.
3. Lavender oil:
The scent of lavender flowers may smell pretty to you. But lucky for us mosquitoes hate the stuff. Making both fresh lavender and essential oils a great way to keep the bugs at bay.
To make a mosquito repellent spray mix a cup of witch hazel, one cup of water and a half a teaspoon of lavender essential oil together. Pour into a spray bottle, shake and spray your exposed skin as needed.
Or if you happen to have lavender growing in your yard, you can crush the leaves and rub them directly on your skin.
4. Tea tree oil:
You may already be familiar with tea tree oil. It’s often used in natural shampoos and cleaning products. Well it turns out it’s terrific for fighting off mosquitoes too.
Tea tree oil was field tested in Australia, where mosquitoes and other biting insect pose a health crisis. And the essential oil was among the most effective alternatives to chemical repellents.
You can use tea tree oil alone, again mixing around a half a teaspoon of the essential oil with water and witch hazel. Or add a few drops of it to one of your other mosquito repellent sprays.
5. Thyme oil:
Oil extracted from the same kind of thyme you use in your kitchen makes a highly effective mosquito repellent. According to early studies, thyme oil is effective at preventing bites 91 percent of the time.
Combinations of essential oils may work better than a one ingredient spray. So feel free to mix and match your oils for a one of a kind personalized mosquito repellent spray.
Be sure to read labels carefully to make sure you’re using 100 percent pure essential oil. You don’t want any products with artificial fragrances or perfumes added.
And keep in mind you’ll have to reapply your homemade natural repellents more often than the commercial chemical products. So until you’re in the habit you might want to set a timer to remind you to reapply every couple of hours.
Don’t let mosquitos, or bug spray side effects, bring your summer fun to a halt. Try one of these safer and effective essential oil insect repellents instead.
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