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Stop Bugging Me!

"Oh how beautiful! Everything is green, lush, and blooming...ahhh...Ouch...Slap! "You little *&%$#"

If you are from Montana, or anywhere with mosquitoes, you know how it goes. We wait and wait for our glorious summers to come so we can get outside and do, well, everything! And then the mosquitoes...and let me just say Montana makes some pretty vicious mosquitoes.

I remember instances were we have been hiking in the high mountains only to be attacked with such aggressive biting we ran away screaming in terror. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but mosquitoes can surely make getting outdoors an unpleasant experience. Plus, mosquitoes in many areas around the world can carry disease and/or other nasty affects (ask me about human bot flies) that we should really try to avoid getting bitten. That either means staying indoors, no thanks, or applying something that makes those little jerks stay clear.

When it comes to applying something, many of us think we need to slather and spray the equivalent of a 50 ton chemical bomb on to prevent the little devils from their full on assault. In deed, that approach can be very effective at detouring mosquitoes. The chemical bomb most people garb for protection is DEET, but DEET does not come without health concerns. In fact, a study conducted on Everglade National Park employees in the late 1980s discovered that one-quarter of the subjects studied encountered negative health effects. Those effects included things like skin irritation and rashes, numb or burning lips, nausea, headaches,

dizziness and difficulty concentrating.1

Pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia from Duke University studied rats and DEET. He found frequent and prolonged DEET exposure led to diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes, and concluded that humans should stay away from products containing it.2 Damage to the central nervous system is the most concerning and includes insomnia, mood changes, disorientation, clumsiness when walking, seizures, and coma.

Most research suggests that if you use DEET as directed at concentrations lower than 50% (research suggests anything higher is no more effective anyway) and avoid ingestion, DEET can be an okay option for occasional use. It should be avoided for children under two and only 1 application per outing for 4-7 year olds.

DEET concentration higher than 50%, long term exposure or applications, and people with compromised liver and detoxification pathways should avoid DEET as well. And if you are like me, I love spending time in the garden, walking around rivers and creeks, hiking up mountains to lakes, you know all the places mosquitoes hang out. So if I was using a DEET product to protect myself from the little flying savages I might be in the high exposure group. Add since we live in an area with low West Nile Virus and no Malaria, I have to ask why would I expose myself and my friends and family to a chemical when it is unnecessary?

So is there an alternative? Are any of them effective?

There are so many essential oils that are great at deterring a whole array of bugs. Some, like Citronella and Lemon Eucalyptus have been studied and found effective. Others have not had the pleasure of being studied, but have an excellent anecdotal track record. The biggest difference is how long the deterrent lasts. DEET at a 30% concentration is effective for approximately 5-6 hours. Most essential oils are effective from 30-60 mins making re-application a more frequent event.

The following essential oils have BUG deterrent qualities:

  • Lavender - Mosquitoes, Fleas, Ants, Spiders

  • Lemon - Mosquitoes, Spiders

  • Cederwood - Mosquitoes, Ticks

  • Citronella - Mosquitoes, Fleas, Ants, Spiders

  • Clove - Mosquitoes, Spiders

  • Cinnamon - Mosquitoes, Spiders

  • Geranium (Rose Geranium) - Mosquitoes, Flies, Gnats, Ticks

  • Lemon Eucalyptus - Mosquitoes, Flies, Gnats, Ants, Sandflies

  • Thyme - Mosquitoes, Ticks, Flies

  • Rosemary - Mosquitoes, Flies, Gnats

  • Peppermint - Mosquitoes, Flies, Gnats, Ants, Ticks, Spiders

  • Pine - Mosquitoes

  • Vetiver - Mosquitoes

  • Tea Tree Oil - Flies, Gnats, Ticks, Lice, Spiders

  • *Lemongrass - Mosquitoes

  • *Lime - Mosquitoes, Spiders

  • *Bergamont - Mosquitoes

*These oil can cause photosensitive reactions. These are best applied to clothing or in an environment rather than directly on the skin.

Instead of using DEET, our household now uses an essential oil based bug spray that I make at home. We have, in fact, used the recipe for years now and find it to be very effective even in the high mountains with very hungry devils. We've gone hiking with people using DEET and found they received more attention from the evil biters. And we've never come home with a tick on us when we use our Safe Essential Oil Magic Sauce.

So What Is the Secret Magic Sauce?

1 C Olive Oil or for a non-oil based use 1 C Filtered Water

1 C Witch Hazel - Witch hazel is also a natural mosquito repellent and an astringent that will help should you actually get bitten.

Then add 10-15 drops of each of the following essential oils:

  • Peppermint

  • Cedarwood

  • Rosemary

  • Citronella

  • Lavender

Add all ingredients into a spray bottle and shake. Spray liberally directly on skin. If you are used to using DEET, you will need to spray more frequently to keep the mosquitoes off. I find spraying this lovely smelling magic on about every 45 mins to an hour to be pretty effective. We still see the little devils hover over us a bit, but we rarely get more than a bite or two, if at all. And certainly nothing like we used to. Plus now we have no worries about any side effects, and it smells sooo good.

What do you do when you get savaged by bugs?!

First off, I am pretty reactive to certain types of bug bits. I used to swell up, itch and generally hate life for a few days until I found Antronex! Some of you might be using Antronex for the symptoms of allergies and hayfever and know how wonderful (life-saving really) it can be. Antronex is actually great for any histamine like reaction including bug bites! Plus, it is safe and natural for everyone - babies all the way up to grannies. Want to get some for you or your family, stop in the clinic and we will get ya stocked up.

A few other options that help to soothing the itch and burn of a bite.

  • Witch Hazel and Lavender dabbed on to the bites can soothe the itch and take out the heat. Need to find a high quality Lavender essential oil? We love Amrita essential oils and you can get Direct delivery HERE.

  • SssstingStop is a homeopathic gel with Echinacea Angustifolia, Ledum Palustre, and Urtica Diolca. This combination is really great at soothing the itch and pain of a bite and helps to take down the swelling and redness. We have this in the clinic and it is available for direct delivery HERE. So many patients over the years have found this to be super helpful for all types of bug bites. And it is safe to use with children and adults alike.


Kathi is an avid hiker and gardener in Livingston, MT. High mountain lakes are one of her favorite places to hike to in Montana. Unfortunately mosquitoes like high mountain lakes too. Kathi also likes to educate people about living a healthy lifestyle including how to avoid near death experiences with mosquitoes.

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