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We have all been there, sitting at our picnic table trying to enjoy some quality family time, when all the buzzing, flying, and creepy crawlies come out to join the party. It's all fun and games until someone gets bitten! I wrote a long time ago about making your own Bugs-B-Gone spray and candle for adults, today we are learning how to make our own kid-safe Bugs-B-Gone Jr. essential oil blend! At the end of the post I give several different ways, you can use this blend to repel bugs safely with small children around!
DEET is toxic and should be avoided completely in small children
MANY of the bug repellent sprays that can be purchased at your local grocery and convenience stores contain toxic ingredients including pesticides like DEET. Extremely damaging to the nervous system and can even cause loss of memory, muscle control, and more! According to Quantumhealth.com, DEET:
“should be used with caution due to its possible damaging effects on brain cells. Studies have shown that DEET causes brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats after frequent and prolonged use. This exposure causes neurons to die in regions of the brain that control muscle movement, learning, memory, and concentration. Rats treated with an average human dose of DEET (40 mg/kg body weight) performed far worse when challenged with physical tasks requiring muscle control, strength and coordination. These findings are consistent with reported human symptoms following DEET's use by the military in the Persian Gulf War.
With heavy exposure to DEET and other insecticides, humans may experience memory loss, headache, weakness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, tremors and shortness of breath. These symptoms may not be evident until months or even years after exposure. The most severe damage occurs when DEET is used concurrently with other insecticides, such as permethrin, for prolonged and frequent periods of time. At this time, there is little information about the short-term, singular and occasional use of DEET. Further government testing of the chemical's safety is necessary. However, frequent and long-term use of DEET, especially in combination with other chemicals or medications, could cause brain deficits in vulnerable populations, particularly children.”
Many essential oils have insecticidal properties and repel all sorts of creepy-crawlies
It's fortunate that Mother nature provides us with plenty of plant sources for repelling bugs, including herbs and essential oils. Certain plants are great in your garden partly because of their bug repelling capabilities. Lavender, for instance, is a great mosquito repellent AND is smells amazing! Many plant's essential oils are also great insect repellents. Many of them will repel nearly all bugs, while others will dissolve the husk of the insect, causing it to die. Not all essential oils are safe for use around babies and children, in fact, some, like eucalyptus and rosemary, should be avoided in children under the age of 10 because of their cineol 1,8 content (one of the many chemical constituents that make the essential oil what it is). You can read more about essential oil safety for babies and children here. These essential oils are kid-safe and make great bug repellents:
- Citronella – Citronella is usually the main ingredient in most natural bug repellent sprays and candles. It smells great and repels everything from ants to flies and mosquitoes, and even wasps/bees.
- Rosalina – Also known as “Lavender Tea Tree” because Rosalina comes from the melaleuca family, it smells more florally and is rich in linalool like lavender. It’s highly antiseptic and is very helpful to cleanse the air and help you breathe better. Like tea tree, lavender, and eucalyptus, rosalina is a fantastic bug repellent!
- Citrus – Lemon, sweet orange, lime, bergamot, and grapefruit are all great essential oils for bug repelling but some are harsher than others. Lemon, lime, and bergamot will cause photosensitivity when out in the sun after use on the skin. I usually avoid using these in bug repellents that I know are going to be spray onto the skin. Grapefruit can cause photosensitivity as well, but you have to use a much higher ratio of it to get a reaction. Sweet orange essential oil does not cause photosensitive reactions and is safe for use on skin that will be out in the sun! Sweet orange and grapefruit are usually my go to citrus oils when working with babies and children.
- Geranium – This floral smelling essential oil is not only great for skin care, it's also a great tick repellent and has been known repel all sorts of flying insects, including fleas and lice. Some have even said that geranium is even more effective than tea tree or mint as an insect repellent!
- Patchouli – Though this essential oil is well known for its ties to the hippy community, patchouli is also a fantastic insect repellent. It's proven to be effective against mosquitoes for 2 hr without re-application! Patchouli essential oil is safe for use on/around children 2+ years.
- Cedarwood/Pine/Cypress – All of the woodsy essential oils have insect repelling qualities to them and are commonly used in most natural bug sprays and candles. I love to use Virginia cedarwood in all of my sprays, not only does it do a great job at repelling the bugs, they also add a calming woody undertone to and blend.
- Clove and Cinnamon – When several essential oils were tested as a mosquito repellent, all showed repellent activity for up to 2 hours, but clove oil lasted the longest at 100% coverage for 2-4 hours! Clove is mostly made up of a chemical constituent eugenol which can also be found in a few other essential oils, including cinnamon leaf and bark. While clove is safe for all ages in diffusion or candles, it is considered a hot oil and is not for use topically on children under 2 years of age. While cinnamon leaf can be safe for use around all ages (diluted properly to avoid any irritation) cinnamon bark essential oil is not for use in any topical applications for child or adult, because it is too irritating to the skin. Cinnamon bark is safe for use in diffusion and candles.
- Lavender – One of my favorite bug repelling herbs in the garden is lavender. Not only is lavender one of my favorite smelling essential oils with just about a billion and one uses, but it's also a great insect repellent as well!
- Sweet Marjoram – I am almost as partial to sweet marjoram as I am to lavender. It smells so delightful to me that I am always trying to work it into most of my recipes. Not only great for sleep issues, muscle pains, and even disinfecting, sweet marjoram is also a great insect repellent. Sweet marjoram is safe for use on/around children 2+ years.
- Lemongrass – Lemongrass has a fantastic citrus smell to it and repels all sorts of insects, but it's not recommended for use on children under 2 years and when used for topical applications, it needs to be highly diluted to avoid skin irritation. You don't have to worry about this with candles!
- Peppermint/Spearmint – While peppermint is not safe for use on/around children under 6 years of age, spearmint is a great alternative to use instead! Spearmint is safe for use on/around children 2+ years. Not only does it have many of the wonderful properties that peppermint has, spearmint also repels many of the same bugs that peppermint does!
- Tea Tree – Naturally antibacterial and antifungal, tea tree is a great essential oil to battle ticks, lice, and mosquitoes.
Bugs-B-Gone Jr. – A Kid-Safe Essential Oil Bug Repellent Blend
- 50 drops MRH citronella essential oil or PT citronella eo (Cymbopogon nardus)
- 40 drops MRH sweet Orange essential oil or PT sweet orange eo (Citrus sinensis)
- 20 drops PT rosalina essential oil (Melaleuca ericifolia)
- 20 drops MRH lavender essential oil or PT lavender eo (Lavendula angustifolia)
- 30 drops MRH Virginia cedarwood essential oil or PT Virginia cedarwood eo (Juniperus virginiana)
- 5 drops MRH geranium essential oil or PT geranium eo (Pelargonium graveolens)
- Combine essential oils in a 15 ml amber glass bottle. Swirl the bottle gently to mix. Store in a cool dark place with your other essential oils, when not using!
How to use the Bugs-B-Gone Jr. essential oil blend
- Body Sprays – It is great to have this spray on hand in your backpack, diaper bag, or purse. You can spray yourself, your clothing, the picnic table, and picnic blankets to keep the creepy crawlies away. Combine in a 2 oz. bottle: 2 Tbsp. witch hazel, 1 tsp. aloe vera gel, 1 tsp. vegetable glycerin (or other carrier oil), essential oils, and water to fill. For babies under 2 years add 10 drops essential oil blend, spray baby's clothing and keep away from the face and hands. For children 2+ years add 20 drops essential oil blend. For children 6+ years add 30 drops essential oil blend. For adults and children 10+ years add 45 drops essential oil blend.
- Bug Repelling Candles – These are great to keep on your back patio or on the picnic tables! I keep these around for all the evening summer fun that we like to do outside! Use 70 drops essential oil per 1 cup of soy wax flakes. In the microwave or a double boiler, melt the soy wax, stirring every 30 seconds or so. Pour the melted wax into your chosen tins, recycled candle jars, or mason jars. Mix the essential oils into the soy wax and set up the wick inside of your candle container and use something to hold the wick up in place, I usually rest a chopstick or a butter knife on each side of it to hold it in place. Let cool and harden. That's it! Burn it on your back patio or on your picnic table! Be sure to always be fire safe when using candles out in nature!
- Diluted in a Roll-On Bottle – Many times, I like to keep roll-ons on hand to use topically. I add the essential oils with a carrier oil to a roll on bottle and then use them by rolling the mixture onto all of your pressure points; the wrist, neck, chest, or wherever you need to repel bugs! Combine 1 Tbsp. carrier oil with the age-appropriate essential oil blend. For babies under 2 years add 4 drops essential oil blend, for children 2+ years add 8 drops essential oil blend, for children 6+ years add 10 drops essential oil blend, for adults and children 10+ years add 15 drops essential oil blend.
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