3 Summer Season and Camping Items That May Contribute to Your Allergy Misery

Three everyday items that many of us use when we go camping, or throughout the summer season, that we would never suspect might be causing or contributing to allergies are:

1. Suntan products: Lotions, Oils, or Sprays
2. Bug Sprays or Repellants
3. Antibacterial Soaps or Hand Sanitizers

Most suntan products are made with chemical sunscreens, many of which have been found to be unsafe or even carcinogenic, and there is continuing debate as to their actual effectiveness in providing adequate protection from the damaging effects of over exposure to the sun. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I’ve blogged extensively over the past few years on various aspects of this topic. While not much has changed over the years, there is some momentum building around the need to innovate and find safer sunscreen ingredients.

This may well be a hidden source of allergy trouble. Until we see some real change and innovation in this arena your best tactic for choosing sun care products that won’t cause more trouble than they are worth is to eliminate commonly used sunscreen chemicals like Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, and Octocrylene in favor of sunblock products made with naturally occurring minerals like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide. These mineral sunblock products stay on the surface of the skin and reflect sunlight instead of being absorbed into the skin, so they are safer and more effective. And if you use suntan oils stay away from Mineral Oil – a petroleum derivative that has been found to be an endocrine disruptor– and instead, choose a healthy fat like virgin Coconut Oil, which is totally safe and also an excellent skin care oil.

When it comes to bug sprays, there are not a lot of options out there to choose from and unfortunately most commercial bug sprays only disclose the active ingredient so you have no idea what else is in the product that could be creating additional problems. As much as humanly possible you should avoid DEET, which is a highly toxic substance. And because most of the time it comes in a spray form you end up inhaling that substance as well! Don’t be fooled by scent. Just because it doesn’t smell bad doesn’t mean it isn’t bad for you!

Instead opt-in for products made with 100% pure essential oils like Citronella, Lemongrass and Geranium, which are just a few of the many essential oils that are effective bug repellants. These are natural substances that your body can easily metabolize and eliminate so again, there’s no fear of chemical residue being left behind.

Last but not least, when it comes to antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers avoid products made with Triclosan! This ingredient is a derivative of Agent Orange and is considered highly toxic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Product manufacturers would have you believe that because it’s used in diluted amounts it’s ok but it’s NOT! This ingredient is not only harmful to you it’s very harmful to the environment too.

Choose products made with Tea Tree and Lavender essential oils –both are very effective antibacterial agents without the toxic effects. For hand sanitizers look for products with these oils in a base of Aloe Vera, Vegetable Glycerin or Ethanol. For soaps stick to liquid castile soaps made with essential oils.

One last note on this . . . you may be allergic to certain plants and herbs, which would make it difficult or even impossible to use products with the specific essential oils I mentioned above. Don’t let that discourage you. There are a wide variety of essential oils with therapeutic benefits to choose from and being sensitive to one in no way means you will be sensitive to others.

Essential Oils: Meet the “New” Antibiotics

The self-perpetuating cycle of resistance caused by over-use of antibiotics can leave us feeling sort of hopeless -after all what other options are we being offered by the medical community? But its not all bad news … science (and even the medical community) is beginning to recognize that we’ve gone too far with antibiotics and is looking at the use of gentler, safer plant-based alternatives.

Tea Tree essential oil, with its strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, has shown promise in a number of different studies as a safe and effective way of killing “bad” bacteria without destroying the “good.” It is widely used in Australia (where it grows in abundance) to successfully treat conditions like yeast infections and Athlete’s Foot.

In his book “Life Helping Life: Unleash Your Mind/Body Potential with Essential Oils,” Dr. Daniel Penoel, a renowned expert in medical aromatherapy, points out that Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) has great potential as an antibacterial agent, but its different from conventional antibiotics in that it attacks only destructive bacteria. It was “created from life to help life,” so it knows what to do.

And there are some other essential oils that show promise in the treatment of bacterial infections. As Penoel points out in his book, essential oils like Thyme, Oregano, Clove Bud and even Cinnamon Bark that are rich in phenols, are powerful anti-infectants, but must be used with care because their prolonged use can place a heavy burden on your liver. He believes that alcohols (essential oils rich in monoterpenols) are the most important oils for our long term health and vitality because they work in a way that’s balanced, gentle and harmonious not just on individual organs but on the immune system as a whole.

A number of essential oils with anti-viral properties have also been identified as strong immune system defenders and can be combined synergistically for use as a preventative against various infections.

To put things in perspective, studying the use of essential oils in the treatment of illness and disease is a required part of the curriculum at medical schools in France, indicating their validity as a legitimate alternative.