Thursday, May 8, 2014

Parasites- Body (Part 2)

As the weather warms up and we all start spending more time outside, it becomes more important to start paying attention to the little buggers that want to make a meal of us. In a post-disaster situation the insect/arachnid population will likely grow due to an abundance of food and shelter, so the lessons learned during good times will be even more valuable in the bad times.

WARNING: You may find yourself itching after reading the following!

Indoor parasites


The standard excuse used when someone contracts lice is “It's not a sign of poor hygiene”. I call BS on that particular Politically Correct statement (that I have seen in print on public school letterhead). You may be the cleanest OCD-afflicted person in the neighborhood, and you can still have lice take up residence on you if you are in close contact to someone who is carrying them around. My one personal experience with body lice was due to a squad-mate in the Army bringing them into the barracks and spreading them throughout the bay. Orange soap for everybody! Don't share clothing, dirty clothes bags, combs, towels, bedding, or any other items that will come into contact with your skin.

There are many types of lice, but the only one known to spread diseases is known as "body louse" or "clothes louse". The pubic louse, AKA crabs, and the head louse will still feed on your blood and make you miserable. Unlike fleas, pets don't carry the types of lice that will feed on humans.

Treating for body lice is a matter of enforced personal hygiene. Change clothes at least once a week. Shower or bathe as often as possible. Launder your clothes in hot water and dry using heat. Anything that can't be washed can be sealed in an airtight bag for two weeks to starve the little bastards.

Treatment for head and pubic lice usually requires the use of chemicals to kill the lice and their eggs; follow the instructions on the package.


One of the bugs that was practically unheard of ten years ago, the bedbug has made a comeback in the USA in recent years. They don't spread disease, but they will feed off of you and keep you from getting a good night's sleep. Red welts at the site of their bites is a reaction to the anticoagulant in their saliva - to keep your blood flowing, just like leaches.

Absent chemical pesticides, the best way to kill bedbugs is with high heat. If you get infested by bedbugs, you'll need to run everything you can through a clothes dryer at its highest heat setting for at least 15 minutes. Floors and furniture will need to be vacuumed and then cleaned with a steam cleaner.


Most spiders found in North America are actually beneficial in that they prey on insects. Only a small percentage are poisonous, but the ones that are can be life-threatening, so it's a good idea to know what is native to the area you're in.

Fleas (again)

If you have pets, you know about fleas. They can drive a dog to distraction and cause massive hair loss and anemia  through blood loss. Cats will spend more time scratching than sleeping and you know that just ain't right. Fleas spend about 10% of their time on you or your pets feeding; the rest of the time they are in your carpet or clothes.

Treating for fleas is usually simple - soap and water will kill them if you leave the lather on for at least five minutes. Flea soaps and shampoos generally contain pyrethrin, a chemical found in chrysanthemums, that is irritating to the eyes and usually not needed. Dogs and cats should be treated with different chemicals, since most of the chemicals in dog formulas are poisonous to cats. Frequent and thorough cleaning of your floors and furniture will keep them from getting established in your home. Planting garlic or rosemary outside your house will also deter them from coming inside, and Diatomaceous Earth will kill the adults and larva if they do get in.

Natural Pesticides

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is effective against most insects. It is not a poison, but an abrasive that will wear holes in the insect's exoskeleton, allowing them to dehydrate and die. It is a fine, talc-like powder made from the shells of tiny prehistoric sea creatures that has very sharp and ragged edges. It is non-toxic and is often used as a filter media in food-grade processes.

Boric Acid is another fine powder that is commonly used for insect control. It works in the  same manner as DE, but is slightly toxic to people and pets.

Essential oils like citronella, eucalyptus, and lavender will help discourage fleas and ticks but are toxic to cats, so be careful when using them.

I know that there are folks out there with more experience using herbal remedies than I, and I would like to hear from them if they have any suggestions for natural repellents and pesticides. I've heard of penny royal flowers being sewn into a home-made flea collar, but I have no experience with it. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

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