By Laura Firszt, Networx
Itchy, annoying mosquito bites can put a serious dent in your summer fun. What’s more, mosquitoes carry the threat of serious disease such as West Nile fever. Here is a guide to prevention and treatment of this seasonal hazard … the natural way.
BONUS: Many of the treatment methods use everyday items you’re likely to have with you on the beach or in the woods – places where mosquitoes tend to strike.
Stop Mosquitoes Before They Start
To prevent mosquitoes breeding in the first place, drain any standing water on your property. Where this is impossible or undesirable (for example, an ornamental birdbath), change the water frequently. Add apple cider vinegar or salt to kill mosquito larvae in the water. Vegetable oil may be floated on the surface in difficult-to-access areas like storm drains. If your neighbors do not deal with stagnant water on their grounds, it may be necessary to contact your local vector program. Everywhere in America, pest control is a top priority.
Set up Barriers
Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and a hat or headscarf outside to make it harder for the mosquito to get to its target – your skin. White or light colored clothing tends to be less visible to mosquitoes than dark or bright shades. Indoors, protect yourself and your family with window screens and mosquito netting around beds or cribs.
Make Yourself Less Tasty
Scented personal care products – shampoos, creams and the like – add to your mosquito appeal and are best replaced with more neutral versions. Forego bananas (AKA “mosquito bait”) but do eat garlic to make your flavor less appealing to pesky insects. Ingest Vitamin B1 via supplements or dietary sources like nuts, peas and potatoes. Mosquitoes are also attracted to the lactic acid in perspiration, so exercising inside during mosquito season is ideal. However, if you are a dedicated jogger or dog walker, avoid strenuous sessions at times of day (early morning and evening) and in areas (dense growth and swamps) preferred by mosquitoes. Since mosquitoes’ tastes run to hot meals, try to keep your body temperature low.
Apply Topical Repellents
Many topical mosquito repellents on the market contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) as their active ingredient. While DEET is considered the most effective insect repellent, it may cause side effects ranging from skin irritation to severe neurological damage. Instead, try applying a natural essential oil; lemon eucalyptus, lavender, neem and catnip are recommendations. Black pepper extract is another option. Or rub yourself with a cut onion or citrus peel. Treat only exposed skin, not areas that are protected by clothing.
Keep Mosquitoes from Crashing Your Outdoor Party
Mosquitoes are notorious for turning outdoor picnics and barbecues into their own al fresco feeding sessions. Keep them at bay by burning citronella candles. A rotating fan will serve a dual purpose – keeping you and your guests cool and making insect pests unwelcome.
Treat Itchy, Swollen Bites
Should you be bitten in spite of all your efforts, resist the temptation to scratch, due to the danger of breaking the skin and exposing yourself to infection. (Besides, scratching only makes the irritation worse!) Instead, get relief from the itch by numbing your nerves with ice or a cold compress. A used teabag will not only cool, but also act as an astringent to reduce swelling. Some treatments do dual duty: a salt water soak eases the discomfort of both mosquito and chigger bites, while vinegar is also useful against the burning sensation of jellyfish stings. For longer-lasting results, dab on honey, aloe vera gel or a paste of baking soda or powdered milk.
Itching, swelling and pain are normal, though unpleasant, reactions to mosquito bites. If you experience more serious symptoms, such as joint and muscle aches, sudden weakness, fever, headache or disorientation, consult a qualified medical professional immediately.