How To Repel Bugs

From Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS

Summer is officially here, and that means that, unfortunately, so are the bugs! No one likes a mosquito on their arm or a fly in their rose, so we often want to douse ourselves in whatever we can find that will keep those pests away. And while there are plenty of products that are effective in repelling bugs, they are often full of dangerous chemicals.

The good news is that there are also some all-natural ways to keep bugs at bay this summer.

Make Your Own Bug Spray

First, I recommend making your own chemical-free bug spray at home with just a few easy-to-find ingredients, including witch hazel and apple cider vinegar. It takes very little time and is actually cheaper than the store-bought stuff.

Here’s my recipe for a natural bug spray that smells great and is safe to spray on yourself and kids:

Homemade Bug Spray


½ cup witch hazel

½ cup apple cider vinegar

40 drops essential oils (Eucalyptus, lemongrass, citronella, tea tree, rosemary, or a combination all work great. Mix and match to create a scent you love!)

8-ounce spray bottle


Mix witch hazel, apple cider vinegar and essential oils in an 8-ounce spray bottle.

Spray over all portions of the body, but avoid getting repellent in eyes and mouth.

Other Natural Ways to Keep Bugs Away

In addition to using a natural bug spray, taking some simple lifestyle precautions can significantly minimize your risk of being bitten by mosquitos and other bugs.

  1. Keep areas around your home free of standing water.
  2. Avoid going outside after sunset, but cover up when you do. That means wearing long sleeves and pants, while opting for light-weight fabrics so you don’t overheat.
  3. You should also cover up if you’ll be hiking in wooded areas or spending time around large bodies of water that are surrounded by trees and other plants (i.e. swamps)

Note: Be especially mindful of the aforementioned tips if you are traveling while pregnant, as the Zika virus is a very real and dangerous concern.

Natural Ways to Treat Mosquito Bites and Bee Stings

Here’s the thing: No matter how much you try to prevent bug bites, the fact is that bugs are pretty omnipresent during summer, so if you spend a lot of time outdoors, the likelihood that you may fall victim to a bee sting or mosquito bite still exists. And if that happens, here are some all-natural ways to treat those bug bites:

Natural mosquito bite remedies:

Witch hazel: Apply directly to the affected area to reduce itching and swelling. You can also combine it with baking soda to create a paste before applying it to the bite.

White tea & chamomile tea bags: Apply a used, cold tea bag to the bite and the antiseptic and antioxidant properties will make a fast and comforting remedy.

Essential oils, especially lemon and eucalyptus: Mix a few drops of lemon or eucalyptus essential oil with a carrier oil (like coconut or olive) and apply it to the bite.

Colloidal oatmeal bath: Soaking in a tub with colloidal oatmeal soothes and moisturizes itchy, irritated skin. You can also add some essential oils to the water.

Natural bee sting remedies:

Baking soda + water: Make a paste and apply to the sting to reduce swelling

Ice: Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling and inflammation

Apple cider vinegar or witch hazel: As mentioned above, you can apply directly to the affected area to reduce itching and swelling, or combine with baking soda to create a paste.

Activated charcoal: Mix the contents of one activated charcoal capsule with one half tablespoon of coconut oil. Apply the mixture to the affected area and reapply every 30 minutes until the itching and discomfort subsides. Cover with a bandage since the charcoal stains easily.

For most people, bee stings are usually just a painful annoyance and the above tips will help you deal with them naturally. Before using any of them, though, you’ll want to carefully remove the stinger and sanitize the area. Be sure to use your fingernail or the edge of a credit card to scrape out the stinger because using tweezers or your fingers to pull it out may push more venom into the skin.

In some cases, however, a bee sting can cause severe allergic reactions like anaphylaxis, which can be deadly. Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include swelling, chest tightness, difficulty breathing and swallowing, and vomiting and abdominal pain. If you or a loved one experiences any similar symptoms, you should seek emergency help immediately. And if you’ve experienced a severe allergic reaction to bee stings before, make sure you have an emergency epinephrine autoinjector (such as EpiPen®) on hand and use it immediately as directed if you are stung again.

Want more wellness tips? Check out superstar Soulcycle Instructor Stacey Griffith’s morning routine or prep for the day like a ballerina!