No See-Ums AKA Mosquitoes

Did you know that there are plants that you can purchase for less than $10 they can help repel mosquitoes? You can place them around your doorways to help keep them from slipping in your home behind you and becoming a nuisance in your home.
Although typically just a pest or nuisance, unfortunately mosquitoes can also carry and transmit blood-borne illnesses as well as cause severe allergic reactions in some susceptible people.
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There are some natural alternatives to reduce the risk of mosquito bites for you and your family. For starters be sure there’s no standing water in or around your property if at all possible. Be sure to flip over and empty buckets of water, toys or anything else where water can collect.  Mosquitoes can lay eggs in very minimal amounts of water or moist soil. They can lay hundreds of eggs at one time that are joined together to form a raft that can float on water. However, it takes about a week or so for the eggs to transform into larvae then pupae (depending on the climate) and, therefore, be able to survive into adulthood and create a problem. So checking your yard, and around your house about once a week can help. There are several plants that have been known to help deter mosquitoes from hanging around and wearing out their welcome. Citronella is probably one of the most popular plants. They are annuals. So they need to be brought indoors in the fall or you will have to replace them every spring. Lemongrass, marigolds, catnip are other plants that may help repel or discourage mosquitoes. (FYI marigolds also repel rabbits and catnip attracts cats so choose wisely.)

There are also safe, DEET and picardin free options that you apply on you and your family.  DEET (chemical name N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) and picardin are the most common ingredient in chemical based bug repellants.  I personally do my best to stay away from thing that hard to read and/or pronounce.  You may want to do the same. DEET inhibits acetylcholinesterase (an enzyme in the brain and nervous tissues that breakdown the molecules that nerve cells make to communicate with each other and other cells) causing and excitatory effect on cells in the nervous system. Some of the other potential side effects of these chemical bug repellants are eye irritation/pain, vomiting, red eye/conjunctivitis, and oral irritation. In addition, products that contain sunscreen AND bug repellent have a higher penetration of the repellent into the skin.  Using a sunscreen that is not mixed with a bug repellant is safer.  After generations of mosquitoes have been exposed to chemical repellants, they can actual develop resistance and the repellents are no lower useful.

Essential oils are actually very potent, safe alternatives if used properly. Essential oils are the compounds extracted from plants and herbs that have a therapeutic effect either by direct application or inhalation of the aroma (aromatherapy).  More on that at another time. You can purchase citronella oil alone or you can start experimenting and mixing different oils together like citronella, lemongrass, and  grapefruit. There are also premixed oils available and citronella sticks.  Of course, there are citronella candles and lamps but if you can avoid open flames near young children and get the same effect, why not?!

***If you’ve never worked with essential oils before know that they should be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut oil (as long as there are no allergy to coconuts to contend with) or any vegetable oil in your kitchen. Some pure essential oils can be an irritant especially to children’s skin so always dilute oils if you’re not sure. You can just place a few drops of the diluted oil on some of your pulse points where your blood flow is higher and the scent will radiate around you more. Pulse points can be found  behind your ears, inside your wrists, behind your knees, and your ankles. Definitely be sure to apply the oils near openings of your clothing (neck, arms, legs).
Mosquitoes come out at dusk and dawn. So try to avoid being outside during those time frames.  If you must be outside, if possible wear long sleeve shirts and long pants that are lightweight and don’t forget to place your oils around your ankles, neck, and wrists!
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If the “no see-ums” insist of having you for a sweet treat, try applying lavender oil to calm the inflammation. A cool compress will help take the edge off as well. If you’re out and about at the park or something, a cool bottle of water or other beverage will do in a pinch. Apply it to the area briefly to get some relief from the itching and slow the progression of the swelling. Adding Epsom salt to your bath also helps relieve the itching. Bear in mind that salty water can sting if you have any open wounds.  So if you’ve been scratching intensely and broken the skin, then skip this step for now. When taking a bath, use lukewarm not hot water.  Heat causes histamine to be released from your cells and will increase the itching sensation.
Happy Healthy Living!
Until next time…
Two Minute Tidbits
  • Mosquitoes come out at dusk and dawn.
  • Mosquitoes only need a small amount of standing water to reproduce.
  • Mosquito egg only take about a week to become larvae that can survive until the adult phase of life so clear your yard about once a week of any standing water.

Supportive Documents

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27213820

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15020197

Neurotoxicity and mode of action of DEET

http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/biology/mosquitoes/