Insects have plagued the human race since time immemorial. Their bites can be one of the most annoying things about a summer vacation, or, depending on where you live, life in general. No wonder that so many of us – 30% of Americans each year – choose to cover ourselves with DEET or other shop-bought products in order to keep insects at bay. But if you’re worried about the risks of long-term use of chemicals, here are some ideas for natural insect repellents and ideas for treating the occasional bite or sting naturally.
How to make your own insect repellent
Add a natural oil such as eucalyptus, tea tree, mint, rosemary, cedar, catnip, thyme or cinnamon oil to your shopping list. Mix your chosen essential oil with witch-hazel and then water it down so that there are about 10 parts water to 1 part oil. This will create a pretty strong concoction which should keep insects away. It is best to spray, or dab it onto your clothes rather than bare skin and it should not be applied to under 3s as it may irritate their skin.
Another even simpler option, and perhaps better for young children, is simply to grind up some insect repelling herbs such as lavender, mint or thyme and rub these against clothes or skin to keep insects away.
If you like to eat outdoors, place pots of mint, lavender or thyme around the eating area to help repel pesky insects.
Add natural herbal body lotions and shower gels containing mint or lavender to your shopping list. The faint smell of these herbs on your skin will deter insects from landing on your skin.
Natural remedies for insect bites
As you probably know, whatever precautions you take, sometimes you will get bitten no matter what. So what to do then?
A vacuum pump, such as aspivenin, can be an effective solution, provided you use it immediately after the bite has occurred. This will literally suck the poison out of your body, relieving the symptoms of the bite and may be worth adding to your shopping list.
Tea tree oil, as well as providing an effective repellent, can also relieve the itching of bites if rubbed into the skin.
Other shopping list staples, which are surprisingly effective are lemons, garlic, onions and tomatoes. These have natural anti-inflammatory properties and can alleviate pain and itching if they are rubbed on the bite.
A less orthodox remedy is to smear the affected area with mud, which some people swear by.
And remember, do your best not to scratch!
If you are stung by a bee, wasp or hornet, try to remove any stinger by scraping it out with your fingernail or a plastic bank card (do not squeeze it or use tweezers as these can push the venom deeper). Cleanse the affected area well with soap and water, to remove any bacteria and then apply any of the following to reduce inflammation:-
Slices of lemon, garlic, onions or tomatoes
A mixture of made from 2 drops of lemon essential oil and 1 tsp honey
An ice-pack made from a bag of frozen peas or ice-chips wrapped in a tea towel.
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