The Deets on DEET & Healthier Bug Repellent Options
'Tis the season to be bitten! It's that time of year when everyone goes camping, on a vacay or enjoys some fresh air on the porch, and no matter where you are they find you. They find you, your ankles, and knuckles and chow down. Bug bites are the worst and, of course, they don't really bug you (see what I did there) until you notice them - then they really drive you mad! Last April, we went on a 12 day cruise to the Caribbean. It was during the time the ZIKA virus was all over the news, and we were a bit nervous about getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Turns out, between the four of us (mom, aunt, hubby & me) we got 2 bites. Not too bad for island hopping and spending 2 days in Puerto Rico after the cruise. We talked to our amazing Naturopathic doc about our options for the best way of protecting ourselves and, let's be honest, our ankles from mosquitoes. She said that because of where we were going and because there had been a few cases of ZIKA there, it would be best to use the chemical filled bug sprays. She said the trade off for using the chemicals and then having to detox our bodies from the chemicals would be far better than getting the ZIKA virus and then dealing with that. There are so many bug repellents on the market and most of them have an ingredient called DEET. DEET is the most common active ingredient in bug repellent. While there isn't much research of the affects of DEET, it is suggested that DEET is harmful to people of all ages and the environment. Developed in the 1940s and ready for public use in the 1950’s, DEET is something everyone has applied to their skin at some point in time. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified DEET’s toxicity levels into Category 3: meaning “slightly toxic” - oh great! The EPA also believes that this “slightly toxic” product is safe to use if used properly. I'm not sure how many of you read the directions for using a common product such as sunscreen or bug spray, but many people use these products improperly, causing some of the ingredients to be harmful.
Are you applying and reapplying the product too often?
Are you following directions of staying out of the sun for first 10 minutes after applications?
Are you applying it on children that are too young for exposure?
While doing some research about DEET, I saw many articles from big name bug repellent companies that say that DEET in not harmful. These are the same companies that use DEET in their bug repellents and want you to buy them. But digging deeper into the world wide web there are many articles that say that DEET is a harmful pesticide, and not suitable for use on small children or pregnant women. According to Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the EPA, you are safe to use DEET as long as you follow the instructions on the bottle. The word SAFE is subjective. Of course you will have companies who use DEET say that it is a safe ingredient because they are a business and want to sell you their chemically filled bug repellent. If you are choosing to use a product that contains DEET, do some research to see if it is safe for you and your family. One article says that parents should choose an insect repellent that contains no more than 10%-30% concentration of DEET on children. Concentrations higher than 30% are not more effective and can be toxic. You should also not use sunscreen that contains DEET because sunscreen needs to be reapplied every few hours, whereas DEET shouldn’t be applied more than once a day. Once you return home or are indoors for the rest of the day, wash the bug repellent containing DEET off of your skin, your children’s skin and all clothing before it’s worn again.
It's safe to say that chemically filled bug repellent works but perhaps there are options that don't cause harmful side effects. There have been reports of seizures, slurred speech, comas and more to those who ingested DEET or applied it three or more days in a row or used products with 95% DEET or more. It is also safe to say that because DEET is considered a pesticide you probably shouldn't come into contact with it if at all possible. I think we all pick and choose our battles when it comes to going fully chemical free. I still get my hair colored - yes, I have gray hair already! I also get my nails done, but I do use healthy skincare that works, eat clean and make sure that I talk to my doctor about everything that I put into, onto or near my body. You may be like me and choose not to get close to DEET unless you are headed to a ZIKA infected part of the world and choose healthier alternatives for insect protection the rest of the time. Here are some natural insect repellents to ward off those pesky mosquitoes that we all wish didn’t survive Noah’s ark.
The most natural of all the options out there is to cover up. Wear long pants and long sleeves, and perhaps a hoodie, socks and gloves while you’re at it. Of course this is the most natural way but if you are in a hot area, you might pass out from overheating and just be really uncomfortable.
Essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus oil are really effective against mosquitoes. According to a 2008 study by the Department of Health and Human Resources, it was just as effective as low concentrations of DEET. However, be careful with using essential oils directly onto the skin and on children under 3 years old. When using essential oils for bug repellent or anything else, make sure you are not applying oils directly to the skin. Use a carrier oil for topical use. Please talk to a certified aromatherapist and consult with your doctor prior to use.
There are various natural bug repellents to choose from at your local health food stores, and I’ve tried quite a few. In fact, a few summers ago, my mom, hubby and I went to Disney World for the first time. I bought some highly recommended DEET-free bug repellent. I sprayed it once, my mom got a nice whiff of it, and it completely flared up her allergies and she was sick the rest of the time.
After doing more research, our choice for bug repellent now is from a wonderful company
called RaGoods. They are an essential oils company that also makes healthy body lotions and potions, linen sprays, scrubs and so much more. You can read more about this company, HERE. Their new PEST-A-MIST natural bug repellent is incredible - love that name! I even put it to the test by sitting outside, knowing that I very well could have been feasted on, as mosquitoes do like me. I sprayed it on my ankles, arms and skin that was out in the open, and not only does this bug repellent smell incredible, it worked! No bug bites, and even the flies left! During the hot summers we get gnats and flies on our porch and they got the heck outta dodge while I was out there. RaGoods makes the most amazing… well, everything. I love that each ingredient that they use for their products is carefully chosen and has a purpose. This bug spray has incredible natural and organic ingredients, like essential oils, that will keep the bugs at bay all while not smelling like typical chemically filled bug repellents. You can learn more about Pest-A-Mist, here.
If you do end up with a mosquitoe bite or bug bite, check out this recipe from Delicious Living here for a DIY Bug Bite Soother. It uses sunflower oil, lavender, and beeswax. Lavender soothes pain and itchiness and might be a good mixture to make and keep on hand.