How to Avoid Becoming a Bug Buffet This Summer
by Joseph Mercola: Eating
Mistakes That Age You
You may be
one of those people for whom summer is far
But like it
or not, most of you have only a few short months to enjoy the great
outdoors in most of the continental U.S. Why waste it battling those
pesky summertime insects?
If you've spent
six or more months stuck inside buildings under cover from rain,
snow and sleet, you may be looking forward to spending a few precious
days outside, be it gardening, or summer sports like softball, camping
and hiking or maybe just evening strolls around the neighborhood.
of your preferred activity, bugs can be a real annoyance, as well
as carriers of disease.
The good news
is, there are some tricks to keeping those annoying arthropods at
bay, and they don't involve applying dangerous TOXIC chemicals to
your skin. And there are also natural remedies if you do fall victim
to a bite or sting.
A Few Fascinating
Here are some
fun facts about the little bloodsuckers:
do not feed on blood they actually feed on plant nectars.
Females use blood to nourish their eggs prior to laying, imbibing
about 5 millionths of a liter per "feeding."
are attracted by carbon dioxide, lactic acid and other body chemicals,
as well as your body heat, and can sense these from 25-35 meters.
- Women, and
people drinking beer, have been shown to be more attractive to
mosquitoes. So if you're a woman drinking a beer, watch out.
- Blonds seem
to be more attractive to mosquitoes than brunettes.
- In one study,
a full moon increased mosquito activity 500 percent.
- If you turn
on a light at night you will have noticed that it is magnet for
bugs. What most people are not aware of is that if you use a newer
LED bulb it will NOT attract bugs. This is because most LED bulbs
do not emit wavelengths in the UV spectrum like incandescents
or fluorescents do
The best way
to avoid mosquito bites is to prevent
coming into contact with them in the first place.
You can avoid
most assaults by staying inside around dawn and dusk, which is when
they are most active. If you must be out during those times, wear
long sleeved shirts and long pants, hats and socks. Mosquitoes are
also thicker in shrubby areas and near standing water.
Mosquito Control Association has a list of things you can do to
mosquito breeding on your property.
are becoming increasingly popular since bats
are voracious consumers of insects, especially mosquitoes. For more
on buying a bat house or constructing one yourself, visit the Organization
for Bat Conservation.
by the New York Times, a simple house fan may also
be all you need to keep mosquitoes at bay in your backyard, because:
dilutes and disperses the carbon dioxide you exhale. Carbon
dioxide is one of the major chemicals that attract mosquitoes.
from a fan also cools you off. Sweat, lactic acid and body heat
attract mosquitoes factors that a fan can help minimize."
avoiding physical exertion that makes you hot and sweaty can help
you avoid getting bit. A
New York Times article from 2008 states that:
like body temperature, carbon dioxide in the breath and certain
skin chemicals like lactic acid all help mosquitoes orient and find
their next meal. Exercise boosts the levels of all three signals,
making people more vulnerable to mosquito bites during or after
exercise.There is [also] some suggestion mosquitoes are more attracted
to darker colors, so donning a white shirt may help reduce bites."
of those options, if you are going to be outside with your skin
exposed during mosquito season, you may want to protect yourself
with a repellent.
of Anything Containing DEET!
The most commonly
used chemical in commercial insect repellents is DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide).
DEET was patented by the U.S. Army in 1946 and is still widely used.
Currently, DEET is used in more than 230 different products
in concentrations of up to an astounding 100 percent.
If a chemical
melts plastic or fishing line, it's not wise to apply it to your
skin and that is exactly what DEET does.
Medical Center pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia spent 30 years
researching the effects of pesticides. He discovered that prolonged
exposure to DEET
can impair cell function in parts of your brain demonstrated
in the lab by death and behavioral changes in rats with frequent
or prolonged DEET use.
The rats given
small doses of DEET for 60 days had a difficult time performing
even the easiest tasks, such as walking.
DEET was found
controlling muscle movement, memory, concentration and learning
- Eye and
- Muscle pain,
joint pain, and tremors
worse, DEET is also combined with other chemicals in many products,
in combinations found to be more dangerous than DEET alone, according
to Abou-Donia. Other things can also react with DEET like
chemicals in your skin care products, and even your medications.
there are other potentially harmful chemicals in bug sprays, one
of which is permethrin.
is a member of the synthetic pyrethroid family, all of which are
neurotoxins. The EPA has even deemed this chemical carcinogenic
it causes lung tumors, liver tumors, immune system problems,
and chromosomal abnormalities.
is also damaging to the environment, and it is particularly toxic
to bees and aquatic life.
It should also
be noted that permethrin is highly toxic to cats
. Even a few drops can be lethal to your feline pet. It is used
as an ingredient in some topical flea products, so when you see
"for dogs only" on the label, it likely contains permethrin.
there are VERY effective repellents on the market, comprised of
natural botanical oils and extracts that are every bit as effective
as DEET but with none of the potentially harmful effects.
In one study,
cinnamon oil performed better at killing mosquitoes than DEET.
is to use the safe solution I have formulated. It's a natural insect
repellant with a combination of citronella, lemongrass oil, peppermint
oil, and vanillin, which is a dynamite blend of natural plant extracts.
In fact, an independent study showed BUG
OFF to be more effective than a product containing 100 percent
DEET! And it's safe for you, your children, and your pets.
There is also
some evidence that consuming garlic
can protect you from mosquitoes and ticks.
and Stings with Herbs and Other Natural Agents
There are many
herbs and other natural agents that are soothing to the skin, and
many have anti-inflammatory properties. You may want to experiment
with some of these for your occasional mosquito bites:
- Aloe Vera:
One of the most nutritionally alive plants on earth, aloe contains
over 130 active compounds and 34 amino acids that are beneficial
to your skin.
This is an herb that I actually use in several of my skin care
products for its soothing, moisturizing and rejuvenating properties.
The most soothing herb of all, whether used in a tea or applied
to the skin. It is rich in the bioflavonoids apigenin, luteolin
In addition to possibly repelling mosquitoes, cinnamon has antibacterial
and antifungal properties.
are helpful for reducing swelling.
- Honey: Raw
organic honey has many powerful healing qualities and has been
used for centuries. An especially powerful variety is Manuka honey
from New Zealand, made from the bees that feed on the flowers
of the Manuka bush, also known as the "Tea Tree." The Manuka tree
is a relative of the Melaleuka tree, from which tea tree oil is
One of the most popular essential oils for its calming scent,
lavender is as antimicrobial as it is soothing.
- Neem Oil:
The oil of the Neem tree (L. Azadirachta indica) is widely used
in Ayurvedic medicine.
Neem is effective against fungal conditions, boils, eczema, and
ringworm, and it would undoubtedly help an insect bite as well.
- Tea Tree
Oil: From the Melaleuca alternifolia plant of Australia and widely
used by the aboriginals, tea tree oil is helpful for healing cuts,
burns, infections and a multitude of other skin afflictions. It
is also a good antimicrobial, including fungal infections.
A Sting Operation:
How Do the Remedies Stack Up?
was curious enough about bee sting remedies that he actually conducted
his own semi-scientific experiment. Working with a beekeeper friend,
he allowed himself to be stung several times so that he could methodically
test out a variety of pharmaceutical and natural remedies.
He kept a running
log of symptoms pain, swelling and itching and logged
them using a 10-point scale every 30 minutes, for each remedy type.
"The best home remedies are better than the best pharmaceuticals."
The only pharmaceutical
he said he would use again was Caladryl lotion, but even that did
not perform as well as the better home remedies.
although it's unclear why it works. Of course, use the
fluoride free version.
the cheapest and most effective anti-inflammatory you'll ever
- A paste
made of meat tenderizer, vinegar, and baking soda
Got to hand
it to him anyone who allows himself to be stung by bees in
the name of science should be given serious kudos!
You can also
try rubbing raw honey on it. This is something my sister actually
suggested to me for an intense, itchy rash I had for over a year
after just about every other approach had failed. I was shocked
at how effective it was.
for the Wild Things
are bitten, but you don't know what bit you. If you have a severe
reaction, it is helpful to know what critter did it.
WebMD has a
Bugs Slideshow" to help you identify different types of bugs
and their bites.
wasp stings account for more than half of the 50,000 known insect-related
injuries to Americans each year.
Here is a handy bee
id chart for identifying various types of bees. On the same
site, there is also a wasp
identification chart to help you identify several stinging
insects by their appearance, as well as by their style of nest.
stings, spider bites are the next most common type of insect-related
injury in the U.S. Of the more than 30,000 species of spiders,
only a few can inflict serious harm to humans.
common culprits are the widow spiders (Latrodectus
species) and the recluse spider (Loxosceles species).
are unfamiliar with the appearance and distinguishing characteristics
of various arachnids, here is a helpful Spider
Identification Chart. Arachnophobes beware ... the images
are very realistic!
of phobias, Emotional Freedom Techniques can be an effective
way to tap
away your fear of spiders.
- Poison Ivy,
Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac
oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac are all part of the cashew
family (Anacardiaceae) and contain an oil called urushiol that
can cause itching and painful rashes upon contact with your
skin in VERY small amounts. Only 1 nanogram one billionth
of a gram is needed to cause a rash.
according to the Poison
Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Information Center, 500 people could
itch from the amount covering the head of a pin.
center in the above paragraph can help you identify and steer
clear of these poisonous plants. There are also some suggestions
about natural sting remedies, including tea tree oil, goldenseal
root, and even a recipe for a topical tea made from jewelweed,
aloe and comphrey.
percent of the population who are allergic to urushiol oil will
have an extraordinarily severe reaction in which they begin
to swell up in 4 to 12 hours (instead of the normal 1 to 2 days).
Their eyes may also swell and their skin may even blister.
ONE OF THE ONLY TRUE DERMATOLOGICAL EMERGENCIES. IF THIS HAPPENS
TO YOU, YOU MUST GO TO A HOSPITAL AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
it is one of the few clinical conditions that I believe justify
the use of oral steroids. It is the ONLY condition that I would
routinely prescribe them for. Common approaches are a Medrol
Dose Pack, but I prefer using less expensive generic prednisone.
Since the condition is so severe and is very limited, the risk/reward
ratio seems justified.
a little knowledge about how to avoid some of these seasonal
hazards, you can enjoy the outdoors without undue worry, while
replenishing your winter-depleted vitamin D stores.
risk your health by applying DEET-based insect repellants
use some of the safer alternatives instead.
Richardson J A. (March 1, 2000) "Permethrin
hazards for cats" ASPCA Veterinary Poison Control Center
Brantley W. "Sting
operation" (September 29, 2003)
H, Leblanc K E. "Common spider bites" Am Fam Physician. 2007
Mar 15;75(6):869-873 l
2011 Dr. Joseph Mercola
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