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Medicine or Malarkey: Can Herbs Shoo the Bugs Away?

It was fun while it lasted. Those idyllic three or four weeks of nice weather without mosquitoes and other pests are just about up – now it’s time for graduations, cookouts and other outdoor activities that often include the company of bugs — most noticeably, those that bite! What are your options for less swatting, more relaxing?

DIY: Natural Repellents from the Kitchen

If you don’t want chemicals involved at all, you can make your own bug spray at home with herbs, spices, natural oils and other household items. Common ingredients in these at-home natural repellents include citronella, lemongrass, peppermint oils, eucalyptus, lavender, mint, apple cider vinegar and catnip. Try these homemade bug spray recipes and natural repelling techniques from the Wellness Mama to find one that works best for you.

Don’t Have Time to Create Your Own?

DEET sprays

DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is a chemical present in most commercial bug sprays that has been proven effective. However, many people are uncomfortable using repellants containing DEET as it may also result in allergic skin reactions, eye irritation or other potential side effects. If you do use products with DEET, make sure the DEET concentration is below 30-percent, especially if you’re using it on children. Also, do not use DEET on infants younger than two months old. (For more information on insect repellent safety and children, reference these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.)

Non-DEET sprays

If you’d rather avoid DEET altogether, there are now DEET-alternatives available for purchase. Consumer Reports recently tested a number of bug sprays to see which were most effective. Two non-DEET repellants topped their rankings, Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula, and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus.

The active ingredient in Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula is picaridin, while the Repel relies on a 30-percent concentration of lemon eucalyptus. It’s important to note that lemon eucalyptus can cause eye injury (so please keep it away from there!), and it should not be used on children under three.

Dress the part

When all else fails, wear long sleeves and pants (especially while doing yard work). You can also use a box or overhead fan while enjoying time on the porch (mosquitos will struggle flying through the wind it generates). Also, be sure to eliminate any standing water since that serves as a breeding ground for mosquitos. Change the water in birdbaths regularly, and fill in puddles in the yard. Prevention is always the best medicine!