Summer is all about enjoying time out in the sunshine. But while we’re enjoying the outdoors this summer, pesky bugs are frolicking about as well, and they intend on ruining our good time. To stay bug bite-free this season, here are the best natural ways to repel insects — plus a few ways to deal if you’re already bitten!
You are what you wear:
Wearing loose-fitting clothing, for example, can be a saving grace — simply because it makes it harder for bugs to bite through your clothes. Bruce Lubin, author of Who Knew?: 10,001 Easy Solutions to Everyday Problems suggests avoiding dark blue clothing to reduce your chances of getting mosquito bites. Mosquitos are attracted to dark colors, so when outdoors, break out those summer whites!
Break out your vitamin C:
Another ingenious way to keep mosquitoes from biting you? Rub any exposed skin with orange or lemon peels. Mosquitoes hate the smell and will find someone else to attack. Interestingly, Lubin points out that ants also don’t like the smell of lemon and orange peels, so grind them in your blender with some water, then spread around the areas you find ants in your house to keep them away.
Stay out of the water!
Or, rather, make sure the mosquitos do. Try to eliminate areas of standing water as this will attract mosquitoes. If you’re spending time by a pool or lake, it’s best to protect yourself with bug spray, says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a dermatologist and plastic surgeon.
Hate the smell of garlic breath? So do mosquitos! Enjoy some delicious garlic-infused dinner, and the mosquitos tend to stay away from you.
It’s a little-known fact that mosquitoes hate basil and tansy. Keep those plants in your yard and around your porch. If you’re not familiar with it, tansy is a pretty yellow perennial flower, which has been harvested for its medicinal properties for several thousand years. In colonial times it was used to preserve meat and keep insects away. It’s a low-maintenance flower, except for the odor, which irritates some people almost as much as the bugs, says Lubin.
Tea tree oil:
Tea tree oil acts as an anti-inflammatory that can ease itching, swelling and pain. It can also repel mosquitos from the initial biting. Create a natural misting spray bottle, with two ounces of organic tea tree oil, and some water. If you’ve already been bitten, get your relief by dotting the bite directly with the oil.
Camp counselors have been doing this for decades. Rub a dryer sheet all over before going outside and you won’t get any bites all night!
Aloe vera is often used to calm sunburns, but it can also be used to soothe itching and reduce swelling. “Some people also mix a few drops of water with baking soda (more on that in a bit!), which can help neutralize the skin’s pH levels to reduce itching,” says Dr. Schlessinger.
Baking soda temporarily protects and helps relieve minor skin irritation and itching due to insect bites. Use as a paste or a bath soak for relief. For a paste: add enough water to the baking soda to form a paste texture. Apply to the affected area of skin as needed or as directed by a doctor. For a bath soak: dissolve 1-2 cups in a tub of warm water. Soak for 10-30 minutes or as directed by doctor. Pat dry (do not rub) to keep a thin layer on the skin.
Apple cider vinegar:
Apple cider vinegar is another common home remedy as the acidity helps stop itching. Dilute two or three cups into your bath water or apply a few drops to a cotton ball and apply directly to the affected area. Regular vinegar has the same effect, but its higher acidity level can disrupt the skin barrier, says Dr. Schlessinger.
An ice pack can also provide itch relief and prevent further swelling. The cold helps numb the nerves so the itching and pain is less intense. A warm shower or compress would have the same effect, however, as soon as you remove the warmth, your body will release more histamine and make the itching worse.
French green clay:
Often sold as a facial mask, you can purchase green clay at your local health food store or order it online, says. The best way to use pure green clay for bug bites is in the form of a paste, which reduces the inflammation of bug bites and also helps pull the toxic venom out of the skin, says Sara Chana Silverstein, a classic homeopath and master herbalist. To make the paste, put some of the clay into a cup and add a drop or two of water, but don’t add too much water because you want to make a paste that will stick to, and cover over, the bitten area. When you have made the paste into the correct consistency, spread it over the bug bite.