To DEET or not to DEET?

Protecting yourself from mosquito bites is imperative since they can carry diseases that cause severe symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and even death.

The best way to combat mosquito bites is through prevention with insect repellents. Most repellents contain DEET which is effective in protecting against mosquito bites—but is it safe to use? Recently, skepticism about DEET has come from reports of seizures in adolescents and adverse skin irritations. Consumers have also shared fears of concerns that DEET may cause cancer. Even the EPA, which regulates the category, is aware of the problem. In an article that appeared in Natural Health Magazine, EPA toxicologist Michael Watson noted an instance “where exposure to DEET caused six cases of brain damage in girls aged one through six – and three of them died”.

Wanna ditch the chemicals? Here are 4 ways to go au-natural and still repel mosquitoes!

Tea tree oil: Also known as melaleuca oil, has been effective at preventing mosquito bites for centuries. Tea tree oil is a miracle oil. It has antimicrobial, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Not only is this gem oil healing, but insects and other pests hate it! Here is an easy recipe to try it—get a 3 oz spray bottle, fill it with 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil like witch hazel or sunflower oil, 30 drops of tea tree oil essential oil and top it off with distilled water. Shake and now you are ready to spray!

Lemon eucalyptus oil—In a recent study lemon eucalyptus oil provided at least 95% of protection from mosquitoes for up to 3 hours after application. You can create your own mixture by adding 1-part lemon eucalyptus oil to 10-parts sunflower oil or witch hazel—but be careful using this mixture on children under 3.

Avon’s Skin So Soft –Growing up in New Orleans, my grandmother would spray me down with Avon Skin So Soft before I played outside in the summer. This product pulls double duty of softening skin and repelling insects, and to top it off, it smells great! It is important to note that Avon does not make any claims that Skin So Soft is a bug repellent, but it has been effective at repelling 2 different species of mosquitoes.

Citronella—Good, old-fashioned citronella is another good option that can provide up to 50 percent extra protection with the correct formula. Topical use of 100% citronella can provide complete protection against mosquitoes for up to 120 minutes. Citronella oil evaporates quickly, so it may need to be replied often and can cause skin irritation.

It is important to note that there are several varieties of mosquitoes, and some repellents are effective against some types and not others. “Natural” repellents with purified forms of plants, like citronella,  may help ward off bugs. However, the CDC notes that experts aren’t sure of their effectiveness, so you shouldn’t rely on them in high-risk areas. 

Still, DEET based products continue to far outsell the natural alternatives. For one thing, DEET formulas work longer – most for 6 hours but some go up to 10 hours. Natural products typically last up to 4 hours, however the consumer has to apply it more frequently. DEET based products are the more familiar and most people don’t experience negative side effects. Some people attract bugs so much that only a DEET product is effective. Use the search tool below to help you choose the repellent product that is right for you.

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