Sunscreen & Bug Spray
Its that time of year again for sprays and creams to protect us from the sun and biting insects such as mosquitos and blackflies. It can be difficult to navigate the numerous products available to ensure we are making the best choice for ourselves and love ones. As with most things, I say everything in moderation, this includes creams and sprays. The first line of defense should always be to avoid or limit exposure. If exposure is unavoidable, then using oral or topical lines of defense can be helpful. When despite our best efforts, we still get bitten or burnt, there are some products that can help heal and minimize the discomfort associated with bites and burns.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants when possible.
- Tuck pants in socks when working outside or at play.
- Wear denim. Mosquito can easily bite through tight fitted clothing and athletic gear containing materials such as cotton or spandex.
If you are not able to cover up, the next line of defense includes oral and topical bug repellants.
Ramp up your B vitamin intake. There are patches available at some hardware stores which contain the B vitamin thiamine (also known as B1), which deters bugs from biting.
I prefer to take a B-complex through bug season. It’s a good energy booster, and it keeps the bugs away.
I love to use combination products with citronella, lemon eucalyptus and camphor. These can be found as sprays to put on your clothing, or as oil based sprays that can be applied directly to exposed skin.
Research has shown products containing the above ingredients to be equivalent to DEET, without the associated risk.
If you have a bite, then my go to approach is combination creams that contain homeopathic and botanical ingredients, as well as ice.
If the bite is really bothering you, then you can start by putting ice on it. I especially like to do this with kids to provide immediate relief and prevent scratching. Next, I love to use combination products that have soothing botanicals such as calendula, chamomile and plantain to help heal, sooth, and reduce itching of bites. They work best in my opinion when they also contain homeopathic remedies such as Apis and Ledum which are used to reduce discomfort and swelling. These combinations can be found at your local health food store.
As with bug bites, the first line of defense should focus on prevention and limiting exposure.
- Avoid being out in the sun between the peak hours of 10am to 4pm. If outside, try to stay in shaded areas whenever possible.
- If you are out working in the sun, wear clothes and wide brimmed hats to prevent direct exposure. There is clothing available that is light weight, breathable and even contains material that can protect you from UV exposure.
- If you are going to be exposed, then apply mineral sunscreens to protect yourself from getting burnt.
- Retynl palmitate,
- Titanium dioxides.
- Zinc oxide
- Mexoryl SX
For more information on products and chemicals to avoid, you can visit the following two websites by the “Environmental Working Group” and “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics” at http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/#.WXZn24TyvIU and http://www.safecosmetics.org/ .
If you get a sunburn, then Start by cooling the skin – you can take a quick dip in the lake, then get yourself to a shaded area.
- Put a cool damp cloth over affected area to cool skin.
- Apply soothing lotions that contain aloe vera to sunburned areas.
- Avoid oil based products! Those can trap in heat.
Make sure you drink lots of water, it helps to keep the body cool and hydrated. Especially important is get drinks with electrolyte in them to prevent dehydration.
By Dr. Nina Lauffer, ND