Bugs suck. Literally. Or many of them do, and I hate our most abundant suckers: mosquitoes and ticks. There was a time when I spent a fair amount of mental energy angsting over my hatred of bug bites v. fear of endocrine disruption or yet-unrevealed disorders associated to exposure to the nasty pesticides in skin-applied insect repellants.
That time has passed.
It was a slow, steady march towards embracing bug spray, but I made it. First, my sweet but sticky and disgusting then-toddler scratched his bug bites all the way to raging cellulitis. More recently, my resolve for repellent has been helped by such gems as the new-to-Minnesota tick disease that makes you allergic to meat, or the increased risk of Lyme’s in Minnesota this year. Also: mosquitos find me juicier than ever and each bite swells and puffs like a fresh-baked flesh-pastry in the sticky hot of summer. Lord.
So here’s where I have settled. I value being outdoors in the summer and my family is determined to explore. With this exploration comes some risk, and mitigating risks to the extent reasonable is a no-brainer. I’ve decided the risk and discomfort of the bug bites outweighs my (admittedly hazy and notably not backed by peer-reviewed research) fears of longer-term damage because of repellants. Those tiny clunks you hear are the sounds me toasting modern chemistry with my bottle of OFF!®.
But a gal shouldn’t be stupid. Insect repellants are no joke. The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) registers them like pesticides and they need to undergo thorough evaluation before being marketed. Part of that evaluation process includes verifying the insects repelled, the time a user may be protected, the active ingredient, and other product-specific info, like how to safely apply it. READ and FOLLOW the instructions, especially when using repellents on children.
No product is a magical panacea for avoiding bug bites, common sense must reign supreme: FIRST, cover up with long sleeves, long pants, and tuck pants into socks. THEN, try to avoid times of day when certain biting insects are active, NEXT, use the right repellant for the job, and LAST, never ever dump unwanted repellants down the drain but instead dispose of at WLSSD’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility. We don’t want that stuff in our water supply or in the landfill.
Be careful out there, fellow adventurers, and may your only summer bites come from fish on the line and hotdogs on the bun.
By Sarah Lerohl, Environmental Program Coordinator