Dear Pharmacist: Which spray do you recommend for hiking or picnicking outdoors? — T.K., Denver, Colo.
Dear T.K.: This may shock you, but I prefer chemical sprays that contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. I am all about good bug protection and can't find any natural spray that works. Mosquitoes and ticks and other vectors, as they are called, carry pathogens that can infect you and disable you with encephalitis, malaria, Lyme, Babesia and other diseases.
I avoid endemic areas and lakes that harbor disease-carrying critters. I wear long pants while hiking. I also keep up my B vitamins. Most of the time, the mosquitoes will swarm my husband and ignore me. I think B vitamins matter.
I respect that some of you don't want to spray on chemicals. If you want a natural alternative, here's a suggestion, but it may not work as well when applied:
32 ounces of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons each of dried sage, rosemary, lavender, thyme and peppermint
1 tablespoon of dried basil
5 drops of essential oil of catnip
Put all of this in a big glass jar and tighten the lid. Leave it there for three weeks (shake it every day). Strain it and dilute by half with distilled water. Put it in little spray bottles that you can carry in your backpack or purse. Use as needed before going out.
Additionally, I'd like to end the myth that taking antihistamines like Benadryl or Claritin before going out repels bugs. It's not true. These drugs, especially Benadryl, reduce itching and redness, but that's all.
Finally, some bug bites require medical attention. If you develop swollen lymph nodes, fever, headaches, hives or low blood pressure, seek medical attention.
This is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Go to SuzyCohen.com.