So, this week I started work for the summer. Outside. In a garden. While some of you may have found work in the nice air-conditioned mall, or sitting around in a store in town, or waiting tables at a restaurant, some of us will be working outside allll day allll summer.
Fact: Gardening is harder than it looks. Fact: I am very sore right now. Fact: I am also very tired. Who knew that you have to wake up so early to garden? Fact: I am absolutely covered in bug bites.
While the mosquito-esque bugs (I donít know what they actually are, but they do indeed like to bite) seemed to stay away from the two women I work with, they did not choose to spare me. Maybe itís my shampoo, or maybe I just have bug-worthy skin. The point is: I hurt. For some reason, I was not anticipating this problem. I was set with sunscreen and tick repellent, but NO BUG DOPE! (Sorry, my friends think thatís weird, but my family calls bug spray ďbug dope.Ē)
Anyway, I was offered some incredibly non-green bug dope from one of the bite-free women I work with, but I had to decline. I was willing to brave the insect storm and hold out for healthy bug dope. Why? Well, I didnít know what they put in those sprays until today, but I did know that every time I went for the bug spray, my mom was appalled by any kind that was not natural. Knowing her, itís got to be for a good reason. So I came home and looked it up.
Turns out, bug dope isnít that great for you. Most sprays use DEET, and the second most-used repellent is permethrin, or pyrethrin. DEET is more effective than pyrethrin, but pyrethrin causes less problems than DEET. Symptoms linked to pyrethrins are coughing, difficulty breathing, asphyxia, vomiting, and upset stomach.
DEET is a little more serious, with hives and skin irritation, nausea, and vomiting being the least severe. If it is swallowed, it can give you low blood pressure and a low heart rate. If exposed to large amounts of DEET, either in one poisoning or over a long period of time, it can cause neurological damage, such as disorientation, difficulty walking, seizures, and coma. Children who use sprays with DEET over a long period of time are especially prone to seizures.
Point being, Iím not going to use these sprays any time soon. Instead, Iím going with one made from geranium oil that has been found to be just as effective as DEET: Bite Blocker Insect Repellent. And if youíre looking for a safe way to keep the ticks off, they also intensely dislike rose geranium, my mother’s research confirms, so itís a perfect double-duty spray.
Note to self: Nothing better for keeping the bugs away than Bite Blocker.
Lily Berthold-Bond grew up in a chemical-free zone and has struggled her whole life to understand and accept this non-commercial lifestyle. Now a freshman at Tufts University, she has embraced her green life and hopes to share its possibilities with the rest of her generation.