Labor Day is here and summer is drawing to a close, which usually means that we are outside soaking up what is left of the warm weather. Unfortunately, being able to enjoy the outdoor BBQs, picnics and beach parties inevitably means one thing... pesky mosquitoes! We may be fortunate enough to not have to worry too much about contracting Malaria or Yellow Fever in the states, but between the chemicals found in candles, bug sprays and topical ointments to treat the itch, mosquito bites can be as hazardous to our health as they are irritating! Insect repellents come in many different forms: candles, lotions, wipes, sprays to name a few. Almost all varieties of these contain one or more unnatural chemicals such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 or p-Mentane-3,8-diol. You don't have to know what these are (or be able to pronounce them) to know that you probably don't want to inhale or ingest them. And absorbing them into your bloodstream through your skin is not exactly any safer. The EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) may deem these chemicals safe in low doses, but did you know that they classify most of them as pesticides? Pesticides by definition are meant to repel pests, but those found in products today are often chemically synthesized versions of repellents that are found in nature. Exposing our bodies to the toxicity of these chemical pesticides, even in small doses, can prove detrimental to our health and to our environment over time.
The good news is that there are alternatives! A non-chemical based insect repellent may be difficult to find, but can be worth searching for. Studies have shown that natural pesticides, such as Lemon Eucalyptus oil can be just as effective in warding off mosquitoes and other bugs as their chemical counterparts. There aren't many natural bug sprays out there, but there are a few. 3 Healthy Chick's favorite is Kiss My Face SwyFlotter Tick & Insect Repellent With Lemon Eucalyptus, which can be found in Whole Foods stores. Cutter also makes a natural version of their bug spray that is made with Lemon Eucalyptus as well, and can be found in many large chain stores, such as Wal-Mart.
Often we fail to prepare ahead of time and before we know it we are covered in itchy, swollen, red bites. This can be quite uncomfortable and can force you to reach for the hydrocortisone cream for relief. These treatments contain strong chemical steroids that are also absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin, especially in sensitve areas where skin is thinner, and can supress the immune system and effect the body's hormones. Children are especially susceptible to harmful chemicals found in products today while their bodies and immune systems are still developing. Fortunately, there are much more natural remedies that we can turn to for relief, many of which can already be found in our kitchen! Avoid scratching those bites, which can lead to infection, and try one of these natural anesthetic or anti-inflammatory remedies instead:
1. Pure lavender and tea tree oils. Apply directly to the bite with a cotton ball or swab.
2. Tomato. Tomatoes contain lycopene which is a natural anti-inflammatory. Cut one open and apply directly to the bite.
3. Rub the bite with an all natural soap.
4. Onion. Onions have natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Slice an onion and rub it on the bite while it is still fresh.
5. Mix either salt or baking soda with water and apply to the bite to relieve itching and swelling.
6. Banana. Rub the inside of a banana peel directly on the bite to relieve the itch.
7. Lemon. Cut a lemon in half and rub the pulpy side against the bite to fight infection. (Do not try this on open wounds!)
8. Apple cider vinegar. Rub directly on the skin with a cotton ball or add to a warm bath to relieve itching.
9. Oatmeal. Add 1 to 2 cups finely ground, uncooked oatmeal to a warm bath to relieve itching.
10. Herbs. Mint contains menthol, which is a natural anesthetic and anti-inflammatory. Basil and cloves contain eugenol, a natural anesthetic.Thyme, which contains thymol, is an anesthetic and anti-inflammatory as well. Crush herbs and apply directly to the skin, or place in boiling water to make a tea and apply a clean cloth soaked in the tea to the bite.
Natural protection and remedies for bites from mosquitos and other pests can let you sit back, relax and enjoy these last few days of summer without worrying about the effects of harmful chemicals on our bodies, our children's bodies or our planet! Many of these remedies can also be found at any farmer's market, so you can stock up, be prepared, and support your local farms all at the same time!