I have seen firsthand what it is like to live in country plagued by a mosquito borne virus. I lived and worked in Central America for several years. Central America is host to some of the most virulent mosquito borne epidemics in the world including, dengue fever and the chikungunya virus.
When my team was working near local waterways and wetlands, I could count on having dozens of people down with these viruses. We took all the necessary precautions but it just wasn’t enough.
The zika virus was prevalent than as well but it just wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen because doctors at the time believed it was a benign virus. Recent evidence has scientists and doctors rethinking due to an apparent link between zika virus and microcephaly, a birth defect with potentially devastating consequences.
All three of these mosquito borne illnesses (and let’s not forget West Nile virus) are serious illnesses. It’s just smart to do what we can to minimize our risk, especially if you live in an area with lots of mosquitoes.
In my experience, if you are in an area with lots of mosquitoes you are likely to get bitten no matter what you do. But there are some all-natural hacks to minimize your risk.
Of course you know the basics.
Mosquito proof your house as much as you can by making sure your window and door screens are in good order and other means of ingress are well sealed.
Bonus tip: Ideally you want a little positive air pressure in your house. Mosquitoes don’t like to fly upwind and when you have a small opening that mosquitoes are trying to sneak through, that small positive air pressure concentrated into a small crack is a mini-hurricane to the mosquito.
Eliminate stagnant water around your home like the birdbath, rain water that’s collected in your swimming pool or that perpetual mud puddle between your house and the neighbors that neither of you want to deal with.
Bonus-tip: In addition to eliminating the mosquito habitats, encourage habitats for animals who eat mosquitoes including frogs, bats, birds and fish.
When outside, cover up with light colored clothing. Mosquitoes are repelled by light colors. I know Summer is shorts and t-shirt season, but when the mosquitoes come out to play, long sleeves and pants are the way to go.
Bonus tip: The mosquito that carries the zika virus is most active during the day not at night. So, don't make the mistake of thinking you need only worry about mosquitoes as evening falls.
Now for some time tested natural mosquito hacks from the herbalist’s bag of tricks.
Plant LOTS of aromatic herbs around your home. Almost all aromatic herbs seem to repel mosquitoes but some low maintenance favorites are sage, verbena, rosemary, lavender or my personal favorite rock rose. Whenever you go outside, make a point to stop and smell the herbs. It’s good for the spirit and you’ll release a blast of aromatics into the air and on your skin.
- Make your own natural bug repellent. Here are two common recipes:
Grandma Kenney’s Herbal Bug Repellant: Buy a bottle of cheap vodka. Drink that. Stop! Sorry that was Grandpa’s recipe for pretty much everything.
Let me start over. Buy a bottle of cheap vodka.
Collect small bunches of, lavender, rosemary, lemon grass, mint and Eucalyptus. The exact amounts are not important and you can omit one or two if not currently available.
Roughly tear or chop the herbs. Fill a small glass jar with the herbs. Grandma always used a mason jar.
Pour the vodka over the herbs until the jar is almost full. Leave about ½ an inch at the top. Tightly seal the jar and put it in a sunny window.
Let jar sit for about 2 weeks but remember to flip the jar over once in a while when you happen to think of it.
After 2 weeks. Pour the off the liquid into a spray bottle. Apply to skin whenever you go out.
A More Modern Natural Bug Repellent: Find a small spray bottle. Fill it ¾ full with rubbing alcohol. Add the following essential oils: mint (5 drops), rosemary (5 drops), Eucalyptus (5 drops) Citronella (10 drops), Lavender (5 drops) and Cloves (5 drops). Top off the bottle with distilled water. Apply to skin when you go out. (Recipe courtesy of: www.commensensehome.com)
If you do get bit two quick herbal treatments to stop the itching;
Basil Poultice: Chew a small handful of fresh basil until it is a mushy pulp. Apply directly to the bite and leave for 15 to 20 minutes. (Yes, I said chew!. You could just smash it and blend with water but I find the saliva make it more effective.)
Green Tea Leaves: After brewing green tea (you are drinking green tea, right?) save the leaves in a small ziploc bag in the refrigerator. Apply a small amount directly to mosquito bites for about 15 minutes.
Remember, if you let yourself be trapped inside because of mosquitoes, the mosquitoes win!
Do you live in an area with a mosquito problem? What are your strategies for beating the bugs? Comment below.