Summer is here; a time of backyard cookouts, weekend camping trips and long days spent tromping around outside. Unfortunately, bugs are another part of the summer equation. Not only can bug bites from mosquitos and ticks be a major inconvenience, but they can also cause serious disease, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. DEET is an effective way to keep the bugs at bay, but the chemical can cause adverse reactions in some people and also eats away at plastic and synthetic clothing. Below are some natural alternatives to avoid ticks and mosquitos this summer.
One of the best ways to avoid the unwanted attention of ticks and mosquitos is to keep your skin covered up as much as possible. If you know you'll be spending time in tick- and mosquito-heavy areas, dress in lightweight and light-colored long sleeves and pants. To avoid ticks, tuck your pant legs into your socks and wear a hat to keep the critters off your head. In particularly mosquito-heavy areas, wear a hat with a built-in mosquito net to protect your face and neck.
Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
Lemon eucalyptus oil is one of the best natural alternatives to DEET and is approved by the Centers for Disease Control as an effective way to repel mosquitos. You can buy eucalyptus oil-based bug sprays at your local health food store or make your own at home by combining four ounces of distilled water with 20 drops of eucalyptus essential oil in a spray bottle. Then shake before using.
Citronella works at keeping mosquitos away because it masks the scents of lactic acid and carbon dioxide that humans emit and to which mosquitos are attracted. Citronella can be burned (citronella candles are popular), but this mosquito repellent will be most effective when combined with other natural repellents, as the burning of citronella candles is only moderately effective at keeping mosquitos away.
Watch Where You Walk
Ticks tend to live on bushes, shrubs and long grasses, waiting long periods of time for a person or animal to come along and brush against the plant so they can climb aboard and enjoy a meal. To avoid the places that ticks are most likely to hang out, keep to the center of trails while hiking in the woods and try to avoid walking through areas that are densely covered in tall grasses or shrubs. When you get home, immediately get in the shower and check your body for ticks, especially the warm and moist areas of your body such as your head, armpits and groin.
Get Rid of Standing Water
Many mosquitos like to lay their eggs in and around standing water. When water covers the mosquito eggs, they hatch, and new mosquitos are born. Even after water is dumped out of a container, the eggs of mosquitos can stick to the side and live for up to eight months. For that reason, it's important to ensure you aren't creating a mosquito breeding ground. According to the CDC, items that generally collect water around the home include pool covers, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, pet bowls, buckets, rain barrels and trash cans. The CDC advises that homeowners should clear these items of water once a week and scrub them to ensure mosquito eggs are removed.
Light That Campfire
If you're camping or hanging out in the backyard and want to avoid mosquitos, the smoke from a campfire is an effective way to keep them from biting. For an even more effective fire, throw some of the herbs listed below into the flames, and watch the mosquitos dissipate.
If you love spending time in your yard but can't stand the mosquitos, consider planting herbs. Certain herbs not only look beautiful but will also keep the bugs from biting. Lavender, basil, sage, rosemary, peppermint, garlic, catnip and marigolds are all effective at naturally repelling mosquitos, and they're great for cooking and baking, too.
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