There are the usual recommendations from experts to cover up when outdoors in the summer when insects are most active, but it’s awfully tough to take their advice when it’s 90 degrees and the humidity is very high. Long pants tucked into high socks? Long sleeves on shirts? In order to stay comfortable, many people won’t heed that advice. The advice to wear loose fitting, light colored clothes is welcome, however, because in addition to coping with insect attacks that advice helps the wearer cope with hot weather. Above all, in more ways than one, the most important item of clothing in summer is a broad brimmed hat.
An illustration of Tanacetum cinerariifolium from the 1897 edition of Köhler’s Medizinal Pflanzen, a book on medicinal plants by Franz Eugen Köhler.
An illustration of Tanacetum coccineum from the 1897 edition of Köhler’s Medizinal Pflanzen, a book on medicinal plants by Franz Eugen Köhler.
One product that straddles the border is the permethrin mentioned earlier. Permethrin is derived from flowers related to chrysanthemums, and is not a repellent but an insecticide. When you use permethrin products, insects will land on you and may get an opportunity to suck blood before they die and drop off. A repellent, of course, wards off insects before they land on you. Permethrin is more effective than other botanicals, and is generally safer for the environment and the user than chemical repellents or insecticides. It is used in some flea treatments for dogs. It is not used in flea treatments for cats, however, because it is toxic, even deadly, for cats. People who have both cats and dogs in their homes should keep in mind if they apply permethrin flea treatment to the dogs but not the cats that the permethrin can still adversely affect the cats by secondary contact. For everyone, as tempting as it is to reach for the most highly effective treatment when battling insects which can transmit troubling diseases, or at least cause discomfort, try to maintain perspective so that the treatment doesn’t end up being worse than the affliction.