Going on a hike or just outside pulling weeds in the garden, Amy Scher would recommend you use an insect repellent for most outdoor activities.
It's not just an irritating scratch she wants to help people avoid, but more harmful effects like the disease that nearly killed her.
In the early 2000s, Scher went hiking in California and didn't wear a repellent. Unknown to her at the time, a tick had latched on and gave her Lyme disease. For years, Scher began experiencing strange symptoms, which were misdiagnosed, as they often are with the tick-borne illness. But then things started getting worse.
In 2005, Scher was sitting in a Jacuzzi and lost all feeling in her legs.
"Everything went downhill from there," she said.
Scher became bed ridden. Scans found lesions on her brain. The bacterial disease had spread to every organ in her body and into her bone marrow.
Scher was taking dozens of medication and antibiotics each day to fight the infection, and she eventually went to India for an experimental treatment, which she said helped boost her immune system so she could eventually fend off the disease. Even the lesions on her brain healed.
This is why Scher, now 33, advocates people wear an insect repellent.
"Anytime you would wear sunscreen, I would say put on insect repellent as well," she said.
There are a variety of repellents on the market targeting everything from ticks to mosquitoes. Some are natural and some are chemical. Some are applied topically, while others take the form of a patch or create a perimeter around a designated space.
Here's a look at a few different an innovative choices (it should be noted that not all the repellents below are approved by the EPA, which has a list of approved repellents that have been tested here):
- Go natural: Ticks-N-All is the repellent Scher uses. It's an all natural brand that is applied as a spray and protects against a variety of biting insects. Scher also noted some using geranium oil as a natural bug deterrent. Another from an all-natural line is by Ava Anderson. Anderson told TheBlaze in an email that her spray uses organic catnip to achieve the repelling properties, which she says are "10 times more effective than DEET." Not to mention she thinks it smells great compared to what many are used to of bug sprays.
- DEET: A common insect repellent, DEET, is well-known not only for being a very effective but also because of health concerns some have linked to it. DEET was originally designed for the U.S. Army in the 1940s and began being used by the public in the 1950s. In 1998, the EPA reviewed the efficacy and safety of using products with DEET and concluded "as long as consumers follow label directions and take proper precautions, insect repellents containing DEET do not present a health concern." This is under the assumption that exposure to the chemical is not over a long period of time. There are currently 140 products containing DEET registered with the EPA.
- Put on the patch: Some claim vitamin B1 (or thiamine) emitted through pores will produce an unattractive scent to mosquitoes that is not detectable by you. But it would require a significant amount of thiamine to be consumed and would take a long period of time to get through the body's system. Some manufacturers have created a patch though that gets the vitamin into the system faster with the aid of sweat. The Insect Defend Patch, which is sold by some retailers in Canada and has been approved by Health Canada as a natural solution to protect against insects. One of the benefits of the patch James Krane, the president of Safety in Motion, which makes the Insect Defend Patch, said is that unlike lotions and sprays that run off with sweat and in the water, the patch will stay in place.
- Off the body protection: Some people plant geraniums or citronella to create an attractive border that can repel some mosquitoes. Citronella candles, which are infused with citronella oil, are less effective than applying an oil topically, and an NIH study found it is less effective than DEET in terms of duration of protection though. Alternatively, there are companies that can create a bug-repelling perimeter. The Mosquito Squad in the Washington, D.C., area, for example, has several chemical and natural options that can be applied to help create a bug barrier.
Bruce Lubin, author of Who Knew?: 10,001 Easy Solutions to Everyday Problems, has a tip for keeping mosquitoes at bay that could be located in your refrigerator now. He suggests rubbing an orange or lemon peel over your skin to help repel the biting insects. He also notes that avoiding dark blue clothing could be beneficial as well.
- Place a small amount of anise oil into the wash cycle so that it mixes with soapsuds and places the oil into your clothing in order to repel mosquitoes.
- Add a few drops of the oil to commercial bug repellent might make it more effective and help it to last longer -- not to mention smell better.
Feel free to share your favorite insect repellents with us in the comments section below.
Featured image via Shutterstock.com.