With the summer weather come mosquito and insect bites, especially since many of us in Lake Country either live or spend time near the water. Pests usually leave a red bump and an annoying itch, but some bites can lead to more serious illness as well.

If you’re visiting an area with a high risk of disease from insect bites, such as Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, and Ethiopia, a commercial insect repellent might be fine. However, if you are hanging out in your yard, going on a hike, or going camping, natural repellants are a healthier, safer option. Children are more sensitive to chemicals, so choosing a natural repellent can be especially important for them.

The good news is that essential oils can be used to make a powerful, natural insect repellent. Essential oils should always be mixed with a carrier oil when applied topically, such as fractionated coconut oil (which remains liquid at all temperatures), almond oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, sunflower or avocado oil. A good ratio is 3 to 5 drops of essential oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil. It is always advisable to spot test the mixture on a small section of skin and wait an hour to make sure there is no irritation or allergic reaction. Here are some of the most common oils to consider:

Lemon eucalyptus oil: This oil has been used as a natural repellant since the early 1900s and has a strong smell of the well-known citronella. The Centers for Disease Control has approved this oil as an effective ingredient in mosquito repellants. You can make your own repellent using 1 part lemon eucalyptus oil and 10 parts sunflower oil or witch hazel.

Citronella: This common essential oil is used to make candles that, when burned, help keep insects at bay. Burning citronella candles outdoors can provide 50% more protection against mosquitos. When applied topically with a carrier oil, citronella can protect you for up to two hours.

Lavender: This popular oil has a scent that can repel mosquitoes with a more calming and tolerable smell. Lavender also has analgesic (pain relieving) properties that can soothe and calm the skin.

The following oils can help with other common summer pest problems:

Peppermint oil: Most bugs do not like this oil, especially mosquitoes and spiders. Mix peppermint oil and water in a spray bottle and use it in the corners of your home or on the ceiling to scare off spiders and insects. If you’ve already had a bite, mix a few drops of peppermint oil with a carrier oil and rub it topically on the bite to stop the itching and cool the area.

Cinnamon oil: This oil can be used to kill mosquito eggs. It’s also a great deterrent to snakes. A manager once told me to cut up the cinnamon stick brooms that you find in the supermarket and sprinkle the pieces outside, where you want to ward off snakes. You can also mix 4 to 8 drops of cinnamon oil and clove oil with a gallon of water and spray liberally. Many people have told me it helps to spray this mixture around dock areas and pine straw. (Note: cinnamon and clove oils are toxic to pets.)

If you’re getting a bite or two this summer, there are a few natural remedies you can try. Applying a cold tea bag to a bite can help relieve the itching. The tea bag also acts as an envelope right on the bite (or bee sting) to draw out poison and potential toxins. The ingredients in white tea can be particularly effective at reducing inflammation. Chamomile tea is another great option.

In addition to tea, you can also try rubbing a piece of raw onion, freshly cut garlic, or a banana peel on the bite to relieve the irritation. Or go to the pantry for apple cider vinegar. A small amount of apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball can be rubbed onto a bite to reduce inflammation and itching.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove uses a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing, and lifestyle counseling, to help clients achieve optimal health and wellbeing in an environment. In addition, the practice has set itself the goal of being a valuable source of information so that people can learn to lead a healthy lifestyle and prevent future diseases. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.