Summer is the season to explore the wonders of nature. Unfortunately outdoor adventures usually include a few pesky, unwanted visitors, namely insects. When a baby and children are part of your nature party, you’ll probably want to steer clear of toxic insect repellents and opt for a more natural choice. That’s why today we’re sharing some homemade insect repellent tips and other tricks to help keep the bugs at bay.
Just like food or medications we ingest orally, what we put on our skin (the body’s largest organ) is absorbed into the bloodstream. That means we should be just as cautious about our skin care and personal care products as we are about food. And when it comes to our littlest family members – babies and children – we should be extra careful with their developing bodies. Sometimes insect repellent is necessary, especially when it aims to prevent the transmission of disease by blood-sucking insects. But the means in which we try to avoid harm shouldn’t inflict harm itself, right?
For over five decades, DEET has been the standard ingredient in most traditional insect repellents. Although the Environmental Protection Agency deems DEET only “slightly toxic” when used occasionally and in small doses, studies indicate it may have the same effects on humans as it does on insects. That is, it impairs the nervous system from sending messages involving movement to the brain. It may also cause damage to the brain and other organs, as well as skin irritation. Serious consequences for adults, much less babies and children!
Alternatives to DEET in traditional insect repellents include icaridin (also known as picardin or Saltidin) and IR3535, both of which may have side-effects but perhaps not as severe as those from DEET. Also keep in mind the directions for these ingredients state they should never be consumed orally, should be kept away from a baby or child’s eyes and mouth, and should not be applied to open wounds like cuts and scrapes. While this seems like a no-brainer, it is probably an unrealistic expectation for a child not to put his hands or arms to his eyes and mouth at least once during an outdoor excursion. This direct contact only exacerbates the toxic dangers of these chemical ingredients.
The good news is that you can protect your babies and children using all-natural ingredients in homemade insect repellent. There are many formulas that you can concoct and trying out a few salves to see what works best for your family is a good idea. Here are some of the most common ingredients in homemade insect repellent:
- Distilled Water
- Witch Hazel
- Vegetable Glycerin
- Oils that work as natural insecticides: olive oil, grapeseed oil, neem oil or jojoba oil (pick one)
- Essential Oils for scent: lavender, eucalyptus, cinnamon, clove or a variety of others (pick one or two)
To make homemade insect repellent, fill a spray bottle most of the way full with the top four ingredients. Then add around 100 drops of each type of oil.
Additional tips for repelling insects:
- Bring along a small portable fan. Insects cannot withstand the force of the wind.
- Light a citronella candle in the area where you’ll be playing outdoors.
- Don’t have a citronella candle? Slice an onion and put it in a bowl of water near your play area.
- Avoid scented toiletries and perfumes that may attract bugs.
- Discard food trash in an area where you don’t plan to use.
- If you must use a traditional insect repellent, never allow a child to apply it to himself. Try applying it to clothes rather than directly to skin. Then wash it off once you return indoors.
Sources: DIY Natural, Natural Living Ideas, Wellness Mama, Live Science and Huffington Post
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