Natural Insect Repellents

Want to avoid bugs and worrisome chemicals like DEET this summer? Here are a few safe alternatives: • Herbs—Basil leaves and lemongrass can be crushed and rubbed directly on skin, and one study found that thyme can repel mosquitoes as long as or longer than DEET. • Essential oils—There’s research showing that catnip oil is effective against certain species of mosquitoes; essential oils of eucalyptus, cedarwood, and citronella can also repel bugs. Malaria researchers say neem extracts have been found to repel mosquitoes for up to 12 hours. Essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil like sunflower or safflower. Try a combination of citronella, lavender, and pennyroyal essential oils in a vegetable oil base to create your own cocktail. • Commercial repellents—Some use lemongrass and citronella oils; others use peppermint and geranium as well. Another combines eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender, marjoram, and cedarwood with peppermint and eucalyptus to keep bugs away. These repellents include odorless and good-smelling creams and lotions, sprays, moist wipes, sticks, and wrist bands, and even clip-ons to attach to belts, backpacks, or strollers—some effective for up to 12 hours. • Even veggies—Celery extract has shown promise in the development of alternatives to conventional chemicals. Bug Dos and Don’ts: • Don’t use any insect repellents on infants under two months; mosquito netting over strollers is your best bet. • Do use sprays in open areas to avoid inhaling them. • Don’t apply repellents to cuts, wounds, or irritated skin. • Do wear long, lightweight pants and a long-sleeved shirt, plus socks and a hat. Tuck pant legs into socks to prevent ticks from crawling up the legs. Spray outside of clothing, especially shoes and socks. Wash clothes at the end of the day. • Don’t use shampoos, soaps, and other products with flowery scents before spending time outdoors; they can attract insects.