Natural Bug Repellents
Nothing ruins a fun day at the park faster than a swarm of pesky bugs. But while many conventional bug sprays are effective at keeping the bugs away, they also use an extremely toxic chemical as their active ingredient, DEET. Also known as N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, DEET is a powerful insecticide that can peel paint, damage rayon and spandex, and melt plastic. Up to 56 percent of DEET applied to the skin enters the bloodstream, and reactions to it include skin rashes, lethargy, muscle spasms, nausea, seizures, and irritability. So this is not something you want anywhere near your little baby.
Ticks, the carriers of Lyme disease, are among the most worrisome pests. If you live in, or are traveling to an area known for Lyme disease (according to the Centers for Disease Control, this includes the Atlantic states and Northern California), contact the American Lyme Disease Foundation at 1-800-876-5963 for preventive advice.
To keep bugs from ruining your next day at the park, use a natural bug repellent that bothers bugs — not your baby.
There are a number of natural alternatives to DEET, made primarily from plant essential oils, that you can use to protect your baby from bugs. Most natural insect repellents are made with citronella, a tall, aromatic grass indigenous to Southern Asia. Its pungent, lemony fragrance is pleasant to most people but objectionable to mosquitoes. Other aromatic essential oils commonly found in natural insect repellents include cedarwood, lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint, pennyroyal, lavender, and bergamot.
Insects are attracted by perfumes and scented personal care products (such as shampoos and lotions), as well as by sweet foods such as ice cream, fruit juices, and watermelon. Avoid insects naturally by using unscented products on your baby and steering clear of sweet treats while in insect-prone areas.
To make your own natural insect repellent, mix one part garlic juice with five parts water in a small spray bottle. Shake well before using. Spray lightly on exposed body parts. You could also try mixing rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, vodka, or olive oil with one of the essential oils listed below.
Tea Tree Oil
Mix these ingredients in a ratio of one part essential oil to ten parts base in a clean spray bottle and shake well before using. Also remember that essential oils are only to be used externally. And to ensure that your baby is not allergic, you should test the spray on a small area of her skin first. If she does not show any signs of a reaction, lightly spray exposed body parts with the repellent.
If biting flies are a problem, you can make your own flypaper with this simple recipe: Mix one-quarter cup syrup, one tablespoon granulated sugar and one tablespoon brown sugar in a small bowl. Cut strips of brown kraft paper and soak in this mixture. Let dry overnight. To hang, poke a small hole at the top of each strip and hang with string or thread.
Despite your best efforts, it is likely that your baby will get a bug bit or two in her lifetime. Most bites will be minor causing a little redness, swelling, and itching. You can minimize these symptoms by applying a small amount of undiluted tea tree oil, cold compresses, lavender essential oil, or calamine lotion to the bites.
For bee and wasp stings, you will need to remove the stinger while being careful not to squeeze the venom sac. You can do this by scraping the stinger with the edge of a credit card or dull butter knife. Apply a cold compress to the area, watch your baby for signs of a reaction (such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, or diarrhea), and call your health care provider immediately if you become concerned.