Excerpt from the novel “A Breath of Snow and Ashes.” D. Gabaldon.
“My dear woman, everyone in this festering climate is bitten repeatedly during the hot weather.” He scratched at his beard, as though by reflex.
That was true. Everyone but me and Roger. Now and then, some desperate insect would have a go, but for the most part, we escaped unbitten, even when there were absolute plagues of the creatures and everyone around us was scratching. As a theory, I suspected that blood-drinking mosquitoes had evolved so closely with mankind through the years that Roger and I simply didn’t smell right to them, having come from too far away in time. Brianna and Jemmy, who shared my genetic material but also Jamie’s, were bitten, but not as frequently as most people.
That’s just great. OF COURSE Claire wouldn’t be bitten by mosquitoes. Not only was she a nurse, herbalist, doctor, time traveler AND very happily married to the King of Men, but mosquitoes left her alone. As someone who never – EVER – goes a summer without mosquitoes crawling into my ear canal, I call bullshit. There, I said it. Bullshit. Those little terrorist bloodsuckers eat everyone, right?
But of course, Claire being the kindhearted, all-knowing-Claire, found a solution to help the non-travelers get through mosquito season. Her magic ingredient? Peppermint. Apparently the wee buggers hate the stuff. She simply used peppermint as an ingredient in some sort of lotion/potion to be applied to the skin.
I’d already gone through the lotion-making exercise, so I knew I could fairly simply just use peppermint essential oils in a lotion to mimic Claire’s work. But I wanted to try something a little more 2015 and a little less 18th century. After all, I’m a mom with two squirmy wormy kids (who also get tagged by those bloodsuckers) and I wanted something a little less sticky and more convenient to apply. But the main reason for creating my own bug spray was to find a product that was greener and less toxic than the commercial DEET-filled variety. There aren’t too many parents I know who are thrilled with the idea of spraying down their kids with chemicals. Of course we’d like a greener solution. But we can’t very well let them get covered in itchy, scabby (potentially very harmful) welts, either. There’s got to be an alternative, right? Challenge accepted.
A brief little tour around Pinterest showed me that many other people had the same idea, and sure enough, peppermint was everywhere. At first I thought I’d just apply a drop or two of peppermint oil directly on our skin. Bad idea. It says that peppermint essential oil has a ‘Cooling Effect’. Let’s restate that to mean ‘It Makes Your Son Scream And Cry Effect’. It never actually bothered my skin, but it’s a strong oil, and not so kid friendly. I had to find something more mild.
So here’s what I used:
1 cup witch hazel
10 drops peppermint essential oil
5 drops lavender essential oil (‘cause it smells nice)
5 drops rosemary essential oil (‘cause it’s also supposedly a repellant)
Pour all ingredients into a spray bottle of choice. Shake before using, and boom. Bug spray. Does it work perfectly? No. Does it work well? In my opinion, I say yes. My kids’ legs are proof. Will you have to reapply? Yes. But even if it works to at least reduce the number of bug bites, I’m sold. Add the fact that I don’t have my children assume a goofy pose and yell “HOLD YOUR BREATH!” before I spray chemical fumes into their air space and I’m even happier. Which brings me to another perk – it actually smells good. And the funny thing about using witch hazel is that you can also use it ON the bites, should you get any. It helps to reduce the itching. Who knew? So I’ll just go ahead and call this a bug spray, not just a repellent.
Oh, and contrary to the cautionary label shown below, it doesn’t burn the skin. My daughter was just being a bit protective of her little brother. I hope you like it!
Oh, and if you’re curious about the why’s and how’s of mosquito preferences and repellents, here’s a good link compliments of WebMD.
And dammit all… genetics turns out to be a deciding factor. (Stupid Claire.)
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