Nasty Vile Horrible Blood Sucking Fiends and How To Avoid Them

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Death to mosquitoes!

Why can’t mosquitos suck fat instead of blood?

Why didn’t Noah swat the two mosquitoes?

People who claim they don’t let the little things get to them have never been closed in a room with a single mosquito.

No one is feeling any love for the mosquito.  I know I’m not.  They are foul, nasty, vile, annoying, horrible, germ infested, hideous little creatures.  (I’m working on not holding back my true feelings) I have no idea why a loving God would create such a beast.  My best explanation is that they must have escaped from the bowels of Hell to torment us.  I really really hate mosquitoes.

My hatred began when I was a teen.  I got the world’s most awesome job as a camp councilor.  Odd… I was so excited to do it back then, for barely minimum wage.  20 years later/older I’m not sure you could pay me enough.  Huh. Go figure.  But I digress.

That was the summer that I learned that I could, as can most anyone, handle a bite or two.  Or five.  Or ten.  But somewhere after that my body reached a threshold past which no more nasty mosquito venom would be tolerated.  Each bite swelled to horrific proportions.  A single bite could cover my entire calf or half my face.  They were swollen and rock hard.  Lovely. Just the look every 16-year-old girl is striving for.  And then, a few bites later, a rash of tiny purple spots broke out all over me.  Oh… that was pretty.  Some Benadryl helped get things under control and I learned to soak in DEET before heading out doors.  Or falling asleep.  Or walking to breakfast.  Just so you know… if you are at a camp in the woods, surrounded by lakes, in a place that gets rain at least once a week and has an average temperature of 85 degrees there is NO escaping the tiny little freaks.  Or the mosquitoes either.

Fast forward 15 years or so.  I was living in the desert.  It only rained one month out of the year and then only for an hour or so each day.  There was one tree in my neighborhood and the only water was in the heavily chlorinated swimming pool.  We had killer bees and fire ants and scorpions, but there wasn’t a mosquito in sight.  Well, there was ONE mosquito, apparently.  I’m guessing it came into the neighborhood trapped in the luggage of some unsuspecting tourist.  And it bit my two-year-old daughter and gave her West Nile Virus. They are from the bowels of Hell… I’m telling you!  Thanks to God and her extraordinary doctor she was fine.  Eventually.  After the worst weeks of my life.  I wouldn’t wish West Nile on my worst enemy.  Well… maybe…. no.  Not even on her.

So trust me when I say that I understand the need for a great bug repellent.

But, if you have read anything I’ve ever written you know that I’m not a big fan of people dousing themselves in harsh chemicals.  I think even less of soaking a child in them.  And DEET (the most common active ingredient in insect repellent) is definitely harsh.  Proven side effects (as in: disclosed on the side of the package) include shortness of breath, muscle spasms, headache, memory loss, and brain damage.  The Environmental Protection Agency says that this only occurs if you are exposed to a huge quantity OR small quantities repeatedly over time.  Like… maybe just a little bit every evening, every summer of your life?  Hmmm…..

So, what’s a mom to do?

Well…   here are some tips, some thoughts from others, and a surprising recommendation from the United States Center For Disease Control.

First of all, understand that there are, approximately, four hundred and sixty two thousand, six hundred and three jazillion different types of mosquitoes.  And each type is a little different.  They are attracted to different scents at different times of day, etc. Further, there are some people who are genetically predisposed to be more attractive to these horrid insects.  Yes. It’s true.  If it seems like you bear a mosquito curse, you are probably one of these folks.  The other group that is in for a hard time is pregnant woman.  The heady cocktail of an increased volume of blood in the body, increased propensity to sweat, and raging hormones is, apparently, like a mosquito buffet.  If you are one of the cursed, the milder measures below aren’t going to do much for you. Skip to the part about sprays.

First, as with all things, the foods you eat, have an effect.  Salt and potassium are attractants.  So, you may want to avoid salty foods if you’re camping out.  I can’t, in good conscience, tell you to avoid potassium since it’s found in pretty much all the healthiest fruits and veggies, but maybe you could steer clear of super-potassium foods like bananas and acorn squash if you are going to be outdoors a lot.  Beer is also a huge attractor. In 2011, French researchers discovered that people who have beer in their system are 15% more likely to be bitten.  Marijuana smokers are also more likely to be bitten.  They probably don’t care about it as much as the rest of us. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I felt I should mention it.

On the other hand, garlic, sage, rosemary and thyme (Wait… isn’t there a song like that?) all repel mosquitoes.  This is true if you eat them, but also if you make a tea and rinse your skin with it OR if you burn the herbs over a campfire or grill.

The clothes you wear also matter.  Mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors.  I don’t know why.  But, whatever the reason, here’s another incentive to where lighter shades: dark colors are hot and miserable in the summer so you’re more likely to sweat and sweat ALSO attracts mosquitoes.

And the time of day matters.  Mosquitoes are out in the highest concentrations at sunrise and sunset.  Keep in mind, though, that this is a generalization.  There are a few that love the heat of day and a few that will buzz about all night long.  Whining,  In that horrible high-pitched drone.  Ugh.  Demon spawn.

So….

Here is the surprising thing I found.

The #1 most effective mosquito repellant, as recommended by the CDC (at least in 2002, it was the most recent report I could find) is…. wait for it…. dum-da-da-dah!  ALL NATURAL!!!!!    That’s right!  Repel brand, lemon eucalyptus repellent is the single most effective product on the market.  As you may have guessed, the active ingredients are lemon juice and eucalyptus.  It gives nearly twice the protection than Off Skintastic for Kids.  I know!  I was shocked too!

So why is there any other product on the market?  Well… apparently it’s fairly stinky.

OK.  So… the #2 most effective mosquito repellant, as recommended by the CDC IS ALSO ALL NATURAL!!!!   I know! Knock me over with a feather!  Bite Blocker is made from geranium, soybean and coconut oils and retails for around $10 a bottle.

And, as far as I can find, there is no one online complaining about the smell.

Please keep in mind that some herbal products, particularly rosemary oil, can be dangerous for pregnant women.  Always play it safe and have products okay-ed by your doctor or midwife before using them!

I feel I should be honest.  I started my research on this with the idea that a natural home-made product could suffice for everyday situations but that, if you are a camp councilor, perhaps DEET is called for on occasion.  And perhaps it is.  I know NOTHING about fleas and ticks and other horrible blood sucking parasites that feed on hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts who spend their “leisure” time schlepping through the murky dark woods.  I hope to never find out.  BUT… assuming that, for the most part, you are trying to protect your precious skin – and that of your family – during an evening at the park or outside BBQ… it really doesn’t seem there is any need to ever soak yourself in brain-cell-killing chemicals again.  Unless they come in a glass with salt on the rim.  But that is a post for another day.

It is a gorgeous summer day!  Go slap on some eucalyptus juice and enjoy it!

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16 responses »

  1. Interestingly, I was a mosquito attractant UNTIL I got pregnant. While I was pregnant and ever since, the mosquitoes don’t seem as interested in me.
    Do you have any idea what stores/websites we might be able to purchase the #1 & #2 mosquito repellents from?
    And I always thought you were crazy for wanting to be a camp counselor. Or a youth leader. Or…

    • Yes, but you had the opposite of every pregnancy syptom that exists, so you don’t count. 😛
      I am told that both #1 and #2 are available at Walmart and Target, though I’ve not yet been to investigate. I also have a vague memory of seeing #1 at Gilson’s Hardware store last summer.

  2. And that is WHY I live in the desert! I hate those buggers! On one camping trip we got eaten, I had 150 bites from my waist down. Oh and you did have to go to the bathroom sometime, and they were all over my bum. Death to mosquitos!

  3. Without fail I’ll get bit on an eyelid. My eye swells shut and then I have a shiner that must be explained to inquisitive strangers for the next two weeks.

  4. Sort of off topic, but related to the topic of mosquitoes…

    There is an *awesome* children’s book called “Earth Mother” by Ellen Jackson that tells the story of frog, man and mosquito–man complains to the the Earth Mother that there are too many mosquito (which are annoying and bothersome, since they are trying to eat him) and not enough frogs (which are tasty and delicious) while frog complains to Earth Mother that there are too many men (which is annoying and bothersome, since they are trying to eat him) and not enough mosquito (which are tasty and delicious) and mosquito complains to the Earth Mother that there are too many frogs (which is annoying and bothersome, since they are trying to eat him) and not enough men (which are tasty and delicious).

    I hate mosquitoes with a passion. Mosquitoes will bypass everyone in the surrounding area to have a taste of me. I think this book was written for me, more than my kids, to remind me (perpetually) that I am, after all, just part of the food chain.

  5. Even being in the desert, we have a lot of mosquitos all summer. I just ordered Bite Blocker on Amazon. Mosquitos don’t like my flavor so much but they devour my husband and kiddos. I hate using bug spray on my kids but my husband uses it on himself all the time. I hope this stuff works!

  6. This post was hilarious! I actually laughed out loud several times! Thanks for the insight– I always think it’s strange to use bug repellents that also kill humans… hmmmmm….. Anyway, good post! Also, thanks for checking out my blog a while back– appreciated your feedback! Best wishes, Regina

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