Continuing with Prepared for summer? Tips for those with Chronic Conditions, last week’s post dealt with sunscreens. Today’s focus is bug repellant.
Considering that where I live is a paradise for black flies, mosquitos, deer flies and deer ticks, the bug repellants isle of the grocery store is now resplendent with all sorts of lotions, potions, sprays, alternatives, toxic, and non toxic.
I’m not sure anything will stop a deer fly, short of killing it. However, I’m very allergic to their bites, so am on the look out for them. Black flies tend to leave me alone, but when they do manage to take a bite, I look like a plague victim.
Having a reaction to bug bites can range from an itch to being life threatening. They can also provide unnecessary complications to someone with a pre existing condition, as they carry diseases, such as West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease.
There are many products on the market, including a variety of homemade items at the local farmers market. What works and what’s safe?
I’m convinced that every mosquito in Vermont has my personal address, but I still like to hike, kayak and walk. Consequently, I’ve tried a lot of things. One friend assured us that if we carried the plant tansy we would be protected. Didn’t work. Another swore by Avon’s Skin So Soft. That’s just plan nasty and all that did was made sure junk stuck to my skin. However, since this was a popular myth, Avon added DEET to the product, so now it will offer protection. Taking vitamin B has been a popular idea. As for the ever popular dryer sheets, one friend swears they stop mosquitos but don’t do anything for the black flies. Haven't tried them so don't know what reaction I'll have. Just know I hate the smell. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that what works best for you, works best for you, and may or may not be relevant to me.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research confirms that the following are bug repellents:
- DEET (Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon) Several medical groups recommend not exceeding concentrations of 30% and not to wear continuously.
- Picaridin (products include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus)
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (Repel)-Note “Pure” or essential oil is not the same product
- IR3535 (Skin so Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition).
If you are looking for DEET free options, A 2002 study of mosquito repellents found that the soy-based Bite Blocker for Kids was the most effective natural alternative to DEET. This natural bug repellent offered more than 90 minutes of protection, better than some low-concentration DEET products.
I have particularly sensitive skin so I’m not a big fan of anything I have to rub or spray on. I’ve been particularly curious about the Clip-on Mosquito Repellants. After reading a number of reviews, it looks like a good product if you are just sitting, but once you start moving, it’s not very effective.
To Repel the Bugs
• Just like with the sunscreen, medications and medical conditions, can influence what you use and when. For starters, check your local health departments website about what bugs are in your area and what prevention strategies they recommend. Talk to your provider about what prevention strategies make the most sense for you.
• Wear light-colored, loose clothes and avoid scented products when outdoors, especially
from dusk to dawn, which is the peak feeding time for mosquitoes.
• Remove areas of standing water near your house as they can be breeding areas for
• Make sure windows and doors have mosquito netting. There are special netted hoods
that you can wear to protect your face and neck. In Vermont, a lot of gardeners wear them as planting and black fly season go hand in had. Make sure carriages and strollers are appropriately netted.
• Fans create wind and mosquitoes have a hard time moving about. Using a fan will help
to keep mosquitoes off of you.
• Ticks prefer wooded and bushy areas with high grass and a lot of leaf litter, so avoid these areas when possible. To keep ticks off your skin, apply an insect repellant with 30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors. Wear long pants, long sleeves and long socks. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirts into pants to keep ticks on the outside of clothing. Perform routine tick checks.
Don’t Bother With the Following: Citronella Candles; Bug zappers Ultrasonic devices; Traps
Use Caution When Using Repellents: The CDC recommends the following
• Apply repellents only to exposed skin or clothing, as directed on the product label.
• Do not use repellents under clothing.
• Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
• Do not apply repellents to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears.
• When using sprays, do not spray directly on face—spray on hands first and then apply to face.
• Wash hands after application to avoid accidental exposure to eyes. Children should not handle repellents. Instead, adults should apply repellents to their own hands first, and then gently spread on the child’s exposed skin. Avoid applying directly to children’s hands.
• Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin or clothing. Heavy application and saturation are generally unnecessary for effectiveness. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, apply a bit more.
• After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days.
• Wash treated clothing before wearing it again. This precaution may vary with different repellents—check the product label.
If you experiences a rash or other reaction, such as itching or swelling, from an insect repellent, the repellent should be discontinued and washed off with mild soap and water, and a local poison-control center should be called for further guidance. If you need health care because of the repellent reaction, take the container with you to the doctor’s office or emergency room. Permethrin should never be applied to skin but only to clothing, bed nets, or other fabrics as directed on the product label.
Sunscreen and Repellents: These products can be used together, however limited data indicate that the sun protection factor (SPF), when using a DEET based repellent, is decreased by about one-third. Combination products that offer both sun and bug protection are not recommended, as sun screen needs to be applied more frequently than repellent. Use the sunscreen first, followed by the repellent.