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22 Strategies for Preventing Bug Bites Outdoors

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Spending time outdoors is one of the great joys of life. Playing sports, exploring hiking trails, and visiting amusements parks and just passing time in your own backyard are just a few of the great ways to take in the fresh air and fun in the warmer weather. For most, the only downfall to the season of barbecues and camping trips is the bug bites. Here are twenty-two strategies for keeping yourself and your family bite free.

  1. Dress to Repel – Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors and can bite through tight fitting clothing. Wear loose fitting, light colored attire instead. Also, long sleeves and pants will help to keep you better covered.
  2. Eliminate Standing Water – Standing water serves as a breeding site for mosquitoes. Do away with it by unclogging gutters, ensuring that water is not accumulating in sand pails, wagons, or others containers, and changing water in bird baths and pet bowls frequently. Drilling holes into the bottom of garbage cans can stop rain water from gathering in them. Ponds and puddles that don’t drain can be treated with larvicide.  Pools should stay chlorinated, even when not in use.
  3. Use Repellents Containing DEET Sparingly – Repellents containing DEET are considered the most effective in fending off insects. The EPA states that this is safe for humans, however long term exposure or misuse can be harmful. The chemical is absorbed into the bloodstream and while some swear by this chemical, others have decided to seek out more natural alternatives.
  4. Grow a Bug Repellent Garden – There are many plants that can be used to drive away mosquitoes. Catnip, lemon balm, and rosemary are just a few. In fact, researchers from Iowa State University reported in 2001 that the essential oil in catnip can be ten times more effective than DEET. Simply crush the leaves of any of these plants and rub them on your exposed skin. You can also mix up a homemade repellent by mixing two teaspoons of the essential oil with one cup of high-proof pure grain alcohol.
  5. Attract Bats – Since a small brown bat can ingest up to 600 mosquitoes an hour, some people have opted to buy or build bat houses for their backyards to control the insects.
  6. Use Garlic Inside and Out – Both eating and “wearing” garlic can keep bug bites at bay. To make “garlic perfume,” mix one part garlic juice with five parts water.
  7. Protect With a Net – Netting, while simple, provides excellent protection from bugs. There are nets that are made specifically for baby carriers and strollers. On a larger scale, screen houses can be used in yards and at campgrounds to protect the entire family.
  8. Repel Ticks With Wood Chips – If you live or camp next to a wooded area, create a barrier of wood chips at least three feet wide.  The ticks are unable to cross them.
  9. Experiment With Vitamin Supplements – While not scientifically proven, some claim that taking thiamin, also known as Vitamin B1, creates an odor that mosquitoes find repugnant.
  10. Light Citronella Candles – Citronella candles are a tried and true method of banishing mosquitoes. If this is not enough protection, there are also citronella coils.  Coils create a smoke barrier that keeps mosquitoes away for up to seven hours.
  11. Use Apple Cider Vinegar – Kept nearby in a bowl or ingested from a shot glass, apple cider vinegar is said to ward off mosquitoes and ticks.
  12. Light a Fire – A simple campfire is not only great for cooking and socializing, the smoke is also a natural insect repellent. To make it even more potent, add some sage or lemon balm to the flames.
  13. Skip Commercial Perfumes – Deodorants, perfumes, and fragrant shampoos are said to attract mosquitoes  Steer clear of these when spending time outdoors.
  14. Dab On Vanilla Extract – Believe it or not, vanilla extract is said to ward off biting insects. Mix equal parts of pure vanilla extract with water and apply to exposed skin.  Then, apply it undiluted to your pulse points.
  15. Splash On a Bit of Eau de Mouthwash – Mix equal parts of an original antiseptic mouthwash (usually gold in color) and vinegar and apply to exposed skin.  The effectiveness of this remedy is usually attributed to the fact that  it contains thymol, eucalyptol, and menthol, three natural repellents
  16. Keep a Dryer Sheet in Your Pocket – Not only will you smell great, but keeping dryer sheets in your pockets is said to keep mosquitoes away.
  17. Keep Mentholated Cold Salve On Hand – Rub a little on your clothes and pulse points.  Because it contains cedar leaf, it naturally repels insects.
  18. Put Sound Waves to Use – Ultrasonic mosquito repellers are devices that emit high frequency sound said to resemble the sound of a dragonfly, a mosquito’s natural predator. These have not yet been scientifically proven to work, but have received some good reviews from consumers and the anecdotal evidence is quite promising.
  19. Spring for Specialized Clothing – There are several clothing lines made specifically to repel insects. Some contain Permethrin, an ingredient that is safe for humans but toxic to insects.  When an insect lands on the clothing, it will die instantly. There are other non-chemical lines that are simply light-weight and made of netting to naturally protect against all biting insects.
  20. Don’t Skimp on Lawn Maintenance – Adult mosquitoes rest in tall grasses and weeds during the day, so keeping your yard mowed and weeded will make it a less likely home for these pests.
  21. Install Yellow “Bug Lights” – Replacing your outdoor lighting with yellow “bug lights” will make the light less attractive to insects.
  22. Stay Inside at Night –  Finally, when it comes to mosquitoes, limiting outdoor activities to the daylight hours can help keep you bite free.

Everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to how they protect their family from the dangers and irritations of bug bites. Some prefer to arm themselves with the strongest chemicals available while others opt for a more natural choice. Staying informed on the latest findings on safety and effectiveness is the best way to make your decision and to enjoy a delightful, itch free season.

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