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Making the Outdoors More Friendly


Making the Outdoors More Friendly

On our journey to the lake - children, husband, dog, and food all piled into the car - it dawned on me that I’d forgotten to pack the most important item: my cherished collection of essential oil repellents, homeopathic remedies, and potions for every eventuality.

On our journey to the lake—children, husband, dog, and food all piled into the car—it dawned on me that I’d forgotten to pack the most important item: my cherished collection of essential oil repellents, homeopathic remedies, and potions for every eventuality.

We’d already made a detour to collect my son’s friend Carl, so my husband rolled his eyes and gave me “the look—you know the one that says, “We’re not turning around now.”

Carl piped up, “Don’t worry, my mom gave me a huge can of bug spray—we can all share that.”

Horrified, I turned to my husband and said, “We’ll have to stop at the natural health store. I can’t possibly let this lot into the bush without some protection, and I don’t mean the chemical kind.”

Carl’s mom’s approach to such repellents has long been questionable, with the possibility of side effects and toxicity, particularly to young children and pregnant women. The merits of natural alternatives are now more popular as the public’s awareness of insect-borne disease increases.

Natural Alternatives

Lavender and citronella essential oils are trusted insect repellents and are available in many different preparations from your natural health store. Particularly effective and pleasant to use is the essential oil blend of lavender, peppermint, citronella, and lemongrass in a calendula oil or a water-based spritzer. Fresh yarrow plants can be rubbed directly onto the skin and lemon balm or yarrow tea can be misted onto children to repel mosquitoes. There are even specific spritzers to repel fleas, ticks, and other biting insects from your pets.

Generally, these essential oils offer protection for up to three hours. However, be warned: even these natural oils can cause sensitivity and allergic reactions, so frequency of application should be kept to a minimum. Citronella is not recommended for children under two years of age.

Sucking Out the Itch

Even after the most diligent evasive strategies are employed, we are still susceptible to a bite or two whenever outdoors. Many natural health stores now carry a unique aspiration device that offers instant relief from the associated itch, pain, and swelling.

This reusable, vacuum-action device actually removes venom from the wound. It is effective within one or two minutes, depending on the bite or sting, and is safe for pregnant women, small children, and even babies. It has even been shown to remove up to 40 percent of the venom from snakebites.

Carl’s mom was amazed when we returned him home–tired, muddy, and yet bite free.

“We had a great day, Mom. I haven’t got a single bite; I used this really cool gadget that sucked them away. We didn’t even need the regular bug spray.”

To maximize the benefit of repellents take the following precautions:

  • Avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk (the peak hours for insect activity).
  • Avoid spending time in wet, swampy, or damp areas (prime mosquito habitat).
  • Wear protective light-coloured clothing (insects are attracted to dark colours) such as long-sleeved tops, long pants tucked into socks or gaiters, and a hat with a veil.

Tips for Yur Picnic Site:

  • Ensure food is stored in sealed containers.
  • Keep lids on drinks to deter wasps from entering–be particularly vigilant with cans of pop.
  • Create a food decoy some distance from your picnic site.
  • Try the old folk remedy of placing an inflated brown paper bag near your site - it mimics a wasps’ nest, which deters fellow wasps from approaching.
  • Burn citronella candles in the open to deter insects. (A campfire has a similar effect.)


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