Why Should We Worry About Ticks and Other Insects?
In my late 20’s I got what I was certain was one of my regularly scheduled quarterly sinus infections. Symptoms were textbook for me, a little tired and run down one evening, woke up the next day stuffy with a cloudy head, the next day sinuses started draining and causing chest congestion. Off to the Urgent Care for a Z-pack and a steroid shot. After several more days with no sign of improvement, I was considering going back to the doctor for another round of antibiotics when i noticed some tingling in my feet and hands. I ignored it and tried to get some rest. That evening I woke up around 11 pm and was unable to walk and barely able to use my hands. I also had red spots all over my feet and legs. I got someone to take me to the Emergency Room where the doctors at first wanted to send me home and refer me to a dermatologist. After my less than polite objection, they involved a few more doctors and came up with a diagnosis. I had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick bite that was hardly noticeable. After conferring with the infectious disease specialist, I was told that the tingling feeling was actually paralysis setting in on my extremities and within 24 to 48 more hours, without treatment, it would have paralyzed my internal organs and killed me.
While my story isn’t very common, adding the other tick borne illnesses such as lyme disease as well as the multiple mosquito transmitted illnesses to the pot makes it important to consider insect repellent to your list of prepping items. Beyond the actual illnesses, insect bites are a potential infection site as well as just plain irritating. If you have never gotten a good case of “chiggers” on you, consider yourself among the fortunate.
What Can I Use Protect Myself From Insects?
I will divide insect repellent into two types for the purpose of this blog post. The first type is the wearable repellent. The other is the stationary repellent. Some types will overlap the two and I’ll point that out.
Wearable Insect Repellents
It’s not officially summer here in the South until you smell the strong scent of “Deep Woods Off” on every kid playing in the yard. My daughter is an absolute buffet for mosquitoes if she so much as steps outside without repellent on so she gets fogged with spray on any exposed skin. Wearable repellents let you take the repellent with you as you go and are the best choice if you are on the move, so consider these for vehicle and bug out bags. There are lots of choices today and some may fit our needs more than others, so consider this another “mission dependent” item and consider having a few different choices available. If you are interested in what else you might want to consider for your go bag or bug out bag, take a look at my post here.
Deet Repellent Sprays: Developed in the mid 1940’s for use by the United States Army, Deet is a chemical compound that confuse an insect’s olfactory senses and “blind” them to the substances in human sweat and breath that attract the little blood suckers to us in the first place. While it works great at keeping you from being a bug’s dinner, we have to be careful when we apply Deet repellents. It can act as a solvent and is destructive to some plastics and coatings. If you have ever heard the life hacks about using “Off” brand spray to clean headlight lenses, this is why it works. It chemically melts the top layer of the plastic, so think of what this can do to the string on your hunting bow or the seams of a rain suit before you douse yourself with the stuff. Grab some by clicking the picture below.
Permethrin Repellent Sprays: Discovered in the early 1970’s, Permethrin is actually an insecticide that has been used to treat crops and large areas of infestation. It is used as a repellent to insect bites by killing or disabling them before they are able to bite. As an insecticide, it is closely monitored since it is a broad spectrum chemical and kills bugs indiscriminately including beneficial insects like honey bees. For personal use, however, we are much less concerned with the bug mortality rate when it comes to the ones actually trying to eat us. It’s a solid option for hunting too since it is not going to melt our synthetic and plastic gear while we wear it. Pick some up by clicking the picture below:
Repellent Treated Clothing: I’m not sure where this technology began, but I first heard of it in the camouflage hunting clothing industry. Hunting seasons vary in actual calendar season across the world. Here in the southern United States, we have hunting seasons that start in early fall and in early to mid spring. An opining day dove hunt in early September or a late season turkey hunt when the woods are warming and greening up will expose us to bugs that had to have been stowaways because Noah wouldn’t have knowingly let them near the Ark! Regardless of who deserves credit for the idea, we now have outdoor sporting and work clothing made by several companies that is impregnated with one or more repellents when they are made. One consideration to have about these, though, is that the effectiveness is reduced over many washes. The maker usually has a number of washes specified in the product information. Click to take a look at the shirts below:
Personal Electronic Repellent Devices: Themacell brand devices are a handy option that provide insect free environments without having to spray ourselves with a chemical. They work by heating up an insect repellent cell that emits a chemical scent that works much like the sprays do. You can get one by clicking the picture below:
Stationary Insect Repellents
While my classifications might not be the industry standards for pest control, I think that they adequately explain the types of repellents we commonly use. The Stationary repellents are those that treat an area, not a person, therefore you are protected in the treated area, but not when you leave it. These are a great choice for general outdoor activity that is confined to an area such as a camp site, back yard, or a patio.
Whole Yard Repellent Treatments: These treatments are usually done by professional pest control services or by purchasing a product like the spray pictured below. Most of these products are made to attach to a garden hose and self dilute as the water flows through the nozzle and out on the yard. Professional or DIY products can make a big difference in how enjoyable your back yard or work area around a cabin will be when the temperatures get warmer.
Electronic Repellent Devices: This is one product that falls into both classes since it can be carried with us or used to create a perimeter around us to create a zone of protection. The ones below are set up to provide stake out around a patio or camp site. Click the picture to look closer:
Citronella Candles and Torches: If Deet containing aerosols were the smell of the summer days of my youth, Citronella was the smell of summer nights around the patio or porch. Versions of this waxy, oily substance ranged from galvanized buckets filled with a candle to tiki torches that were filled with a citronella lamp oil. The oil is derived from several varieties of lemongrass so its probably the most “natural” substance on this list. It has a distinct smell and you might find it does a great job for your ourdoor setup. Try some of the bucket candles by clicking the picture.
Insect Repellent Safety
If we take a quick look at the description of all of the types of insect repellents listed in this post, the word “chemical” is used repeatedly. Even natural options, while unprocessed, are still chemicals and like the man made and synthetic chemicals, they can also cause allergic reactions in some people. We should always make sure that we experiment with any new chemical we use, no matter the application, to make sure we aren’t allergic or have some other negative response to it before relying on a product daily.
Also be very cautious when using any chemical product around children or pets. Permethrin, for instance, is toxic to cats.
While it won’t stop everything we might encounter, another option is always to use a mosquito net like the one below. Look closely when purchasing though, some are impregnated with chemical repellents. Click the picture to get one:
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