Wednesday, July 7, 2010

To DEET or not to DEET?

So, we're heading up to Michigan for a week, and I'm sure we'll be spending a lot of time outdoors and on b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l Lake Michigan.

My mother says the mosquitoes there are worse than in NC (which I find hard to believe, but I do believe her 'cuz she's my mom) so I thought this would be a good time to explore the subject of insect repellents.

(There was also a great article about it in Natural News this morning, which makes my job a whole lot easier!)

So the question DEET or not to DEET?

I was surprised to learn that apparently, no one really knows how DEET works. They have some different theories, but the important thing is that it keeps the pesky biters away, and has been in use since the 1950's when scientists needed a concoction to protect American soldiers in post-WW II jungle warfare.

Recently the science has been undergoing more rigorous scrutiny. According to "experiments performed in cockroaches and rats, the researchers found that deet blocked the action of the neurological enzyme acetylcholinesterase. This is the same mechanism that causes the toxic effects of popular carbamate and organophosphate pesticides, as well as chemical weapons such as sarin and VX nerve gas. This may mean that deet repellants are actually insecticides and could damage the human nervous system."

Other problems arise when DEET is combined with organophosphates or carbamates, as in most mixed repellent-insecticide products. At that point, the toxicity is believed to be exacerbated.

In another study, DEET is believed to have contributed to seizures in young children.

So what's a mom to do?

The past couple summers I've used a natural alternative from Dr. Mercola. I've found it to be effective in keeping nasty biters off my ankle-biters, and although the aroma is quite pungent, we've grown accustomed to it.

My mom swears by Avon Skin-So-Soft, but I haven't done enough research on those ingredients to feel good putting it on my kids. 

Tons of people say Shaklee Basic H, full-strength or diluted, works wonders at repelling unwanted insects (that's one of the 1000 uses I haven't tried yet! Will keep you posted.) People use it on themselves, their pets, farm animals, etc, and have been doing so for decades. So I'm sure we would have heard if there were any adverse effects already. (Shaklee doesn't endorse the use of Basic H2 as an insect repellent because there is no clinical research to illustrate its effectiveness. So don't sue Shaklee for false advertising if you are reading this on my blog.)

You can also make your own insect repellents from herbal tinctures and essential oils, such as:
  • Citronella Oil
  • Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
  • Cinnamon Oil
  • Castor Oil
  • Rosemary Oil
  • Lemongrass Oil
  • Cedar Oil
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Clove Oil
  • Geranium Oil
  • Possibly Oils from Verbena, Pennyroyal, Lavender, Pine, Cajeput, Basil, Thyme, Allspice, Soybean, and Garlic 
One simple recipe is:
  • 10-25 drops (total) of essential oils
  • 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil or alcohol 
Safe carrier oils and alcohols are:
  • olive oil
  • sunflower oil
  • any other cooking oil
  • witch hazel
  • vodka 
Keep in mind that natural insect repellents need to be re-applied every 2 hours for maximum effectiveness.

You can also be sure to wear long pants, long shirts, shoes, and keep as much exposed skin covered to minimize the skin area that the skeeters can find.

Happy summering!