I don’t know about you, but this Zika virus scare has made me a bit uneasy! When the World Health Organization declares an international public health emergency, who can help but be concerned? As experts talk about how the Zika virus is coming to the United States and question our preparedness, my Wisconsin-inspired urge to travel south has been squelched!
What is at the heart of this major drama? This tiny Aedes aegypti mosquito.
It is known for transmitting the viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue fever, West Nile fever, chikungunya and Zika, among others. There is not a vaccine or a drug to treat Zika at this time.
Protect Yourself by Avoiding Bites
With summer upon us, as well as mosquito season, be sure to take precautions to keep the pests away — particularly if you live in the south, or are traveling in South America or the Caribbean. Insecticides (DDT), traps, nets, and repellents are useful in preventing mosquito bites. Harry Savage, the chief of ecology and entomology activity at the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, has advised that, “Using an insect repellent is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from Zika and other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that when in areas with Zika and other mosquito-spread diseases, “Use EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535 or para-menthane-diol.”
Lemon Eucalyptus for Natural Protection
For those who want to avoid harmful chemicals, lemon eucalyptus oil is an alternative to DEET. Also known as P-menthane diol (PMD), oil of lemon eucalyptus is plant-based and has been shown to be as effective as low concentrations of DEET in studies. This is great news for health-conscious individuals. Unfortunately though, it is not recommended for children under 3 years old due to a lack of studies performed on that age group. (Here’s another natural option for these kids!)
Lemon eucalyptus oil is obtained from leaves and twigs of the Eucalyptus citriodora tree. With a scent similar to citronella, this sweet lemony substance is commonly found in natural insect repellents. The plant-based compound is said to effectively repel gnats, biting flies, and mosquitoes — even those that carry West Nile and Zika viruses.
In fact, Consumer Reports recently released test results and ratings for mosquito repellents, including those that can best protect against Aedes mosquitos, and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus finished quite high, in the fifth position. It contains 30% lemon eucalyptus oil and was shown to provide 7 hours of protection. (The top three products deemed most effective against Aedes mosquitoes contained picaridim or DEET, and provided only 1 more hour of protection.) Consumer Reports does recommend avoiding products with more than 30% DEET as well as application of anything at all on children under two months. Read more here.
Products to Help You Repel Mosquitoes & Other Pests
Diffusers and lamps like these are great for spreading aromas throughout a smaller space.
Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Bug Spray Recipe
Natural Bug Spray from Wyndmere:
5 drops Eucalyptus Lemon essential oil
1 ounce water
Mix the essential oil and water in a spray bottle. Shake well before use. Apply to skin as often as necessary, avoiding the eyes and clothing. (Or, mix half the amount of essential oil with one ounce of water for children, the elderly, or those with sensitive skin.)
Note: Essential oils are highly concentrated products of nature and need to be used with care. Dilute properly with water, carrier oils like jojoba or sweet almond, or an unscented lotion or cream before applying topically.
Have you used lemon eucalyptus products for repelling mosquitoes? Share your story in the comments below!