Thursday, May 03, 2018

Tick Hack #3 - Essential Oil Repellent

There are some interesting articles that are linking the explosion of insect borne diseases to climate change, that warming temperatures are expending the range of and prolonging the duration of potential exposures to ticks and mosquitos. Whether “vectors” will become the new pestilence of climate change is debatable but there is no doubt that diseases such a Zika, West Nile and Lyme are on the rise.

I have concerns with commercially produced bug repellents containing Deet and other insecticides so had to look at more natural substitutes based upon essential oils. I began experimenting with types of oils either alone or in blends and was happy with the results. Lemon grass, cedar and citronella seems very effective against our local mosquitos. Peppermint very effective against black flies. I`ve combined different oils into sprays mixing them with water and usually vodka or witch hazel. Placed in a glass spray bottle for ease of application the essential oil repellent is very effective. Like scents tend to blend together the best but the key is determining the appropriate strength of the repellent so it takes trial and error to find the right balance. It also needs to be reapplied frequently especially if you are perspiring from work or sport.

 “Mosquitoes are thought to be attracted to us by certain substances in our sweat as well as the carbon dioxide released in our breath and through the skin. The olfactory sensors of the insect pick up these cues from far away and swarm to us for a free meal.”

  You can also add the oils to a heavier carrier substance like sweet almond, coconut or jojoba oil or mix into a commercial skin cream for something that is both moisturizing and longer lasting.

Ticked Off!

Flies and mosquitos be damned but ticks are on the rise and more of a concern. Clothing helps keep the flying vectors at bay but ticks are crawlers. Once they attach to your exposed skin or clothing they climb till they find an optimum place to feed or a gap in your apparel. They often can crawl about unnoticed by the host and attach without a sensation of being bitten. Ticks add both an anticoagulant and antihistamine when feeding to keep the blood flowing without itching or swelling of the host. Impossible to kill them like swatting mosquitos you need to pick unattached ticks off or use tweezers if they have started to feed.

I have been using an essential oil tick repellent for the last few years while outside in rural Nova Scotia in both wood(dog) and black legged(deer) tick territory.  I apply it twofold; directly to my lower legs before dressing but also to my socks and trouser legs repeatedly throughout the time I am outside. My experience is that some ticks will initially attach to my trousers but tend not to move quickly. They do not like the rose geranium oil I use in my repellent. In testing I have sprayed a crawling tick placed on my forearm and it has either stopped or dropped off completely.

 This season I am using gaiters to seal the gap between boots, socks and pant hem to close the proverbial “front door” to your legs. Keeping ticks on the outside of your clothing is the first line of defense. Light colored clothes, specifically trousers, will let you see them easily so you can pick them off before they have a chance to climb.

Using a repellent to avoid, confuse or slow them down is your second line of defense. Regardless of your precautions you must ALWAYS do a full body tick check at the first available opportunity. That is the third and most important line of defense. The buggers are persistent and will find a chink in any armor.

” There are several studies that have examined the effects of essential oils when used as tick repellent, including this one that focuses on geranium oil, showing that it can have a positive effect, deterring ticks…”

“… Many compounds have been tested for their ability to ward off ticks and other insects. Recently, essential oils have been studied intensely for their promising repellent potential.”

In my opinion the essential oils seem to work in confusing the tick’s ability to quest, imparing their ability to “smell” the air looking for hosts. Studies indicate they can locate hosts through identifying a host`s odor of perspiration, exhalation and lactic acid. Attaching despite using a repellent could be attributed to their ability to identify body heat signatures using Haller`s organs, the infrared heat sensors in their front legs. Despite not liking your odor they may still attach to any passing heat signature opportunity. That is why it is important to be prepared when outside in tick country. Mask your odor, keep them outside/off your clothes and tick check when home.

Essential oils should be stored in glass jars or bottles as the concentration of the oil could break down plastics.

Most essential oils should be mixed with carriers. There are a few exceptions like tea tree and lavender. You can use them neat to dab exterior clothing but avoid applying to skin full strength.

Be careful with essential oils around children and pets. Rose Geranium is pet friendly.

Citrus essential oils are photosensitive so avoid using if exposed to direct sunshine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting article! In case you're interested, a new scientific article found turmeric oil to be very effective. I'm looking into this amidst a tick epidemic in Switzerland.