How to Avoid Catching Dengue Fever and Zika Virus

How to Avoid Catching Dengue Fever and Zika Virus

photo credit: zancudo via photopin (license)

This post is by Bernie Carr,

Lately there have been a slew of mosquito borne diseases in the news.  Hawaii has had an outbreak of dengue fever, and now, the Zika virus is causing illness and even birth defects.

Even if you don’t live in areas where dengue and Zika virus are prevalent, there are other dangerous diseases that can affect you:

  • Malaria
  • Brain inflammation/encephalitis
  • Yellow fever
  • West Nile virus
  • Chikungunya

A simple bite can cause severe itching and rashes.  Pets can also fall victim to mosquito borne diseases:  dogs and cats can get  heartworm disease from a mosquito bite; horses can also be afflicted by encephalitis.  I did not give a thorough description of symptoms, but the CDC has a whole section devoted to Mosquito Borne Diseases

Mosquito-Borne Diseases can easily spread during a disaster

While things are “normal” we can rely on cities and counties to protect against the problem but in the aftermath of a disaster there may not be services available.  If services such as trash pickup, street cleaning are not maintained, the problem could get worse.  If potholes are not filled, pools and other water sources are not treated properly they will become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

How to protect yourself

If at all possible, avoid traveling to areas that have the mosquitoes that carry the virus.  At this time, the Zika virus is widespread in Brazil and a few other countries; travelers are advised to exercise caution.  One the other hand you may already have travel plans that you’d rather not cancel.  I probably would not pass up a trip to Hawaii even if they have the dengue fever carrying mosquitoes.

Avoiding mosquitoes is your best defense.

What Attracts Mosquitoes?

Moisture and standing water are the obvious ones, and we’ve all heard public service announcements to check the premises and eliminate any puddles.  But mosquitoes are also attracted to few other things:

  • Sweat
  • Carbon dioxide – you give off more carbon dioxide when hot and exercising
  • Lactic acid – also given off during exercise, and after eating salty foods
  • Floral or fruity scents
  • Dark clothing
  • Dark and dense foliage

Eliminate Possible Breeding Areas

Mosquitoes breed in standing or stagnant water such as empty pots, puddles, gutters, pet bowls, empty trash cans etc.  Check your yard and even your balcony.  Remove all possible areas where they can breed.

Ways to Repel Mosquitoes

I know there are many commercial products containing DEET that are effective but I was interested in less harsh remedies.  I’ve tried citronella candles, but have had limited success – your experience may vary.  Here are other ways to avoid getting bitten:

  1. Wear long pants, shirts with long sleeves, and apply insect repellent on exposed areas.
  2. Ceiling fan or floor fan:  When on “fast” setting, fans can generate a two-mile an hour wind, that mosquitoes are unable to fly against.
  3. Thai lemon grass plant:  If grown inside or outside the house, this herb repels mosquites naturally
  4. Catnip oil: Pro – known to work better than DEET and for a longer period;          Con – cats may follow you around.
  5. Herbal Armor Repellant:  This contains a combination of herbal oils and has gotten rave reviews from testers.  Also available for pets.
  6. Avon Skin so Soft with Picardin:  Although originally marketed as a skin moisturizer, the product was discovered to have bug repelling properties.
  7. Dryer sheets:  Some users report great success by rubbing dryer sheets, bu the downside is you get white powdery stuff on you.  I am a bit “iffy” on this due to having allergy prone skin, but I thought I’d include it for informational purposes.
  8. Other essential oils such as peppermint, citronella, tea tree, clove oil, cinnamon oil, lemon oil, eucalyptus oil, or a combination.

Please be aware that even “natural” remedies may have side effects.  Exercise care when trying them out and make sure you test a small area for allergic reactions.  Also, some herbs such as tea tree oil are not recommended for pets.   Any repellents have to be reapplied after sweating, swimming, applying sunscreen, and after a couple of hours once absorbed by the skin.

© Apartment Prepper 2016

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Tinctures, Salves, Poultices and More

Home Remedies

I have not given much thought to tinctures, salves and poultices until I read the e-book Home Remedies by Alex Smith.   We will get back to what they are in a bit.

First, let’s talk about the book.

Home Remedies is exactly that:  a book that gives cures for common ailments using easy to find household items.  The conditions are listed in alphabetical order, making things easy to find.  One thing I did not expect was, the book also gives tips for general cleaning, deodorizing, doing laundry… even starting an herb garden.  It even includes home remedies for pets!

Now back to tinctures, salves and poultices…  The book gives great definitions of the terms used, as well as examples throughout the book.

What are they anyway?  From what I learned from Home Remedies (paraphrased):

Tincture is a mixture created by soaking an herb in alcohol or vinegar, helping draw out the properties of the herb, while preserving it.  Salve is an oil with wax added.  A poultice is comprised of a bandage combined with a paste or moist mixture and is placed on a wound, rash or other affected area.

Here’s a handful of fascinating things I learned…

  • Cornstarch can help soothe a sunburn
  • Cherries are good for the nervous system and stress relief.
  • Eating caraway seeds can calm an upset stomach.
  • Sucking on a lemon helps relieve nausea
  • Eating a banana helps calm a hangover (replaces the potassium lost)

I don’t want to give away too much… you’ll have to read the book to find out more.  It’s a good book to have around, to help you find simple home remedies for quick relief, until you can get to a doctor.  You get lots of “good to know” tips at $3.99 for the Kindle edition.  It is also available on paperback.


© Apartment Prepper 2014


What NOT to Do with Essential Oils

Peppermint oilThis post is by Bernie Carr,

As long time readers know, I always try things out before recommending them.  Most of the time they turn out well, such as the expiration date experiment, powdered milk experiment; I even know what expired coffee tastes like.  Sometimes I had mixed results as when I tried shampoo substitutes.  

This time around, I had headache but thought I should try something different before I took a pain reliever.  I decided to try a home remedy for headache relief that I had read about:  rubbing peppermint oil on the temples.

Here is what happened

I dabbed peppermint essential oil on my left and right forefingers, and started rubbing my temples with it.

I started to smell the minty aroma and thought, “Hmmm that smells good!”

Thinking maybe I should add a bit more, I repeated the process.  Now I felt the area getting warmer due to the minty effects.

Next thing you know, the minty oil started traveling toward the corner of my eyes and boy did that burn!

I ran to the bathroom to wash my hands then rinse my eyes.  Sure I forgot about my pounding head – my eyes were burning too much!

After rinsing everything off the burning subsided after about five minutes.

After this little incident, I happened to see a Tweet from Gaye of Backdoor Survival mentioning an e-book that was just released: Aromatherapy Made Easy: The Ultimate Guide to Healing with Aromatherapy

I ordered it and read it in record time.  It is written for beginners which suited me just fine.  After reading the book, I now know essential oils must be used with a “carrier” oil (a plain base oil such as grape seed oil, almond oil, fractionated coconut oil) before they can be applied to the skin.  The carrier oil helps dilute the potent essential oil.

I had to share this story, so you know “what not to do.” and learn from my mistake.

Lesson learned:

  • Never apply essential oils directly to skin.  Always use a carrier oil.

I’m not giving up on trying out essential oils.  In fact, I’ve added Almond Oil and various other essential oils to my Amazon wish list.  I’ll let you know how my next experiment turns out!

© Apartment Prepper 2013



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Home Remedy for Sinus Allergy Sufferers

Sinus Rinse IngredientsMy allergies have started bothering me, with itchy, watery eyes, early morning congestion, sneezing, signaling the start of the fall allergy season.

At my last physical check-up my doctor asked me if I’ve had any health issues bothering me, and I did mention my sinuses bother me every fall and spring.  I can always tell the seasons by my chronic sinus congestion.  I told him I already take antihistamines, but sometimes they don’t help, and I don’t really want prescription inhalers if I can avoid it.  A fellow allergy sufferer himself, he recommended I try the new nasal rinses in the market.  I told him I was not successful with the Neti-pot, but he said the new ones are actually just sinus rinses that work by spraying.  This is the one I tried:

sinusrinseI gave it a try, and it actually gave me some relief.   I used up the pre-made packets, but instead of buying more, I am making my own.  After doing a bit of research, I found a mix that works.  (Please note this is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice.  Check with your own doctor before trying out any health remedies.)

Here are the ingredients:

8 ounces lukewarm distilled water (DO NOT USE TAP WATER or any other water except distilled.  Using tap water or non-distilled water can be dangerous since viruses or bacteria may enter your system.)

3 tablespoons non-iodine salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix all together, fill in a sterile bulb syringe and use as a nasal spray.  (Discontinue use if you feel any irritation/ discomfort or if it doesn’t work for you)

So far it’s worked for me and it does not feel any different than the store bought kind.  I am still keeping a few of the pre-made packets for emergencies and travel, but for now, I am using the homemade version.  I still keep the antihistamines handy, but in an emergency, I am glad I have a backup remedy for nasal allergies.



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Five Home Remedies that Really Work

Being a preparedness for emergencies, includes knowledge of common home remedies for simple ailments from hiccups to sore throats.   I am not a medical professional, but a mom who knows a few homemade cures that work.  Your results may vary, and if your problem persists, please consult a doctor.

Nose or Chest Congestion

 One of my kids recently had severe congestion and this remedy really helped.

You will need:

  •  Small pot with water
  •  Bath Towel
  •  Eucalyptus oil

Bring the small pot of water to boil.  Using mitts, place the pot of steamy hot water in the sink.

Place three to four drops of eucalyptus oil into the hot water.  To avoid burning, keep your face about a foot above the steamy water.  Drape a towel over your head.  Close your eyes and inhale the fragrant steam slowly.  Keep inhaling the steam for about five minutes until the water cools.

A steamy shower is also known to help congestion, but it does waste a lot more water than the above remedy.


This remedy actually works better than many over the counter freezing solutions.  You will need the old prepper’s stand-by:  duct tape.

Thoroughly clean the wart area.  Cut a piece of duct tape slightly larger than the wart and tape it over the wart.  Rub it down.  In three days, remove the duct tape.  The wart will soften up.  File down the dead skin with a nail file or emery board.  Repeat the process until it disappears.  What happens is, the duct tape suffocates and eventually kills the wart.


My mom taught me this remedy for hiccups from when I was very young.  It has never failed me.  You will need:

  •  1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 small glass of water

At the first sign of hiccups, pour one teaspoon or packet of sugar into your mouth, then, while pinching your nostrils, drink it down slowly with a glass of water.  Your hiccups will be gone instantly.   Please note, this remedy is not recommended for diabetics.

Sore Throat

Mix the juice of one lemon, 1 teaspoon of honey and a cup of warm water.  Mix well until the honey is dissolved.

Drink the liquid while it’s warm.

The lemon and honey mixture will relieve your sore throat.   Please note, if you have diabetes, this remedy may be inappropriate for you.

Skin Rash

Recently my hands developed a red and itchy rash from some cleaning products.  I tried regular had lotion but it did not work.  I applied coconut oil directly on the rash.  In a few minutes the itching disappeared.  I kept applying it for two days until the redness was completely gone.

What are your favorite home remedies?  Please share in the comments below.


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This Home Remedy Helped Me Prevent a Cold

This home remedy helpedme prevent a cold

This post is by Bernie Carr,

These past few days have been very busy and stressful.   Two nights ago, I was feeling run down and had a sore throat.  I felt I was catching a cold.  I cannot afford to catch a cold and miss work, not to mention Thanksgiving.   My brother had been telling me he avoided a cold by drinking two tablespoons of Bragg’s organic apple cider vinegar in a cup of water.   When I first heard about it, I told him no way I’d drink is, it would be too nasty to hold down.  Well this time I was motivated to try it.  I did not have Bragg’s brand apple cider vinegar, but I did have a store brand apple cider vinegar.  I mixed two tablespoons of it into a cup (8 ounces) of water, and drank it.  It did not taste great but not as horrible as I thought.  Ok, I did pinch my nose to drink it down faster.   I felt a small burning sensation down my sore throat, but it was more relieving than painful.  After that, I rinsed my mouth and brushed my teeth.

The next morning I did a self check:  no sore throat, no runny nose and no run down feeling.  Wow, it seems like the apply cider vinegar remedy seems to have done the trick.  (I am not a medical professional, and this is an anecdotal account so your results may vary)  My brother has given his 5 year old this remedy with a bit of honey and has helped avoid colds from daycare this way.

I started reading up on the benefits of apple cider vinegar and there are several attributed:

  • Improves digestion and prevent acid reflux
  • Helps fight allergies (human and animals)
  • Helps sinus problems and sore throat
  • Relieves arthritis and gout symptoms
  • Helps cure constipation
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Balance out high cholesterol
  • Prevent urinary tract infections

As a caveat, when drinking this mixture, you must rinse your mouth afterwards, as apple cider, like other acidic solutions may wear down tooth enamel.  Avoid any

I have not tried it for anything else, but I was impressed with the initial result.  I purchased Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider vinegar at the local grocery store and I am trying it out twice a day to see if my fall allergies improve.  So far so good. Share your favorite cold prevention technique in the Comments if you have one!

© Apartment Prepper 2011