I’m pregnant and heading into mosquito season while the Zika outbreak is expected to spread to the northern US, which means I’m doing everything I can to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. This is why I created an Ancestral Organics Bug Spray. You can buy it here or use the DIY Essential Oil Bug Spray below to make your own!
I use it every time I leave the house and love the smell. I also love that’s it’s non-toxic and seriously effective. Majority of the advice for people, pregnant or otherwise, is to use a strong mosquito repellent that contains DEET.
DEET is a chemical insect repellant with limited data to support its toxicity, though that data does exist (albeit, usually in small subjects and test studies). In a report I found for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, doctors found that,
“In humans, reported symptoms of overexposure include seizures, coma, hypotension, bradycardia, confusion, acute psychosis, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, skin irritation, and urticaria or contact rash. The role of DEET in Gulf War Syndrome continues to be investigated. Veterans who used DEET-containing insect repellents showed signs of arthro-myo-neuropathy, a neurotoxic syndrome with symptoms including joint and muscle pain, fatigue after exertion, and tingling or numbing of the hands, arms, feet, and legs.”
There are other studies extolling the safety of DEET, so it’s really up to you whether or not you choose to use it – while pregnant or not.
Because I like to be extra cautious and avoid applying any chemicals to my body where they will be absorbed, I’ve opted to instead use a homemade insect repellent that has shown the be equally as effective as DEET for repelling mosquitoes.
Now, bare with me while I get all science-y on you. I like to do my research. I’m pregnant and I am NOT messing around with Zika. So I complied some studies regarding the efficacy of essential oils at repelling mosquitoes and other bugs. If you’re not interested, just skip ahead for the recipe.
From the CDC website,
“The updated guidance includes addition of two active ingredients – picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus – which have been shown to offer long-lasting protection against mosquito bites…The other repellent is oil of lemon eucalyptus (also known as p-menthane 3,8-diol or PMD), a plant-based mosquito repellent that provided protection time similar to low concentration DEET products in two recent studies.”
Another oil you may be familiar with for repelling mosquitoes is cintronella. You’re probably familiar with cintronella candles, right? I’ve always loved them, they smell like summer to me! As it turns out, those candles aren’t incredibly effective, but the oil itself is:
“Indoors, the repellency rate of citronella candles was only 14% while the repellency rate of citronella diffusers was 68%…Outdoors, citronella diffusers placed 6 m from mosquito traps repelled female mosquitoes by 22%.” Source
And that’s just from diffusing citronella, not even applying it to the skin! Imagine how much more effective it is if applied (diluted) to the skin!
Another study found that:
“The repellency of citronella oil decreased over time, from 97.9% at 0 hour to 71.4% at 1 hour and 57.7% at 2 hours.”
Another favorite essential oil for repelling bugs is peppermint. You may already know that peppermint is great for repelling spiders in your home (which is why I spray it in my basement). This study found that,
“…peppermint repelled more flies than sunflower oil alone for a period ranging from 1.5 to 4 h after treatments applied to heifers. All essential oils repelled > 75% of the flies on the treated area for 6 and 8 h on pastured cows and indoor heifers, respectively. Geranium, lemongrass and peppermint stayed effective for a longer duration.”
I use a 2% dilution based on the recommendation from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.
- 1 4oz blue or amber glass bottle
- 4 oz of witch hazel
- 16 drops of citronella
- 16 drops of lemon eucalyptus
- 16 drops of peppermint
- Add the citronella, lemon eucalyptus and peppermint to the glass bottle.
- Add the witch hazel to the top of the glass bottle.
- Apply top and shake before use.