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This morning I caught a local TV segment which featured a doctor talking about tick disease and how to prevent it. He addressed the fact that ticks are getting more active, now that it’s warming up. Of course, he recommended that we douse ourselves with DEET, if we walk in grassy or wooded areas. While Lyme’s disease and other tick borne illnesses are serious (and even life threatening), DEET (whose chemical name is N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), is not exactly safe!

Why DEET-Containing Repellents Are Better Off Avoided

About 30 percent of Americans are reported to use DEET every year, in the form of lotions and sprays. And even though it’s generally effective in keeping away insects, it can have fatal effects. In fact, from 1961 to 2002, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reported eight deaths related to DEET exposure. Five of those occurred following DEET exposure to the skin in both adults and children. In children, the physical symptoms of DEET toxicity reported to poison control centers were lethargy, headaches, nausea, tremors, involuntary movements, seizures, and convulsions. The mental symptoms of DEET toxicity include altered mental state, auditory hallucinations, and severe agitation.

DEET Is Not Eliminated from the Body for 24 Hours

When researchers applied DEET to the skin of volunteers, they found that a small amount of the DEET was taken into the body through the skin. Higher levels of DEET were absorbed into the body when the DEET was added to sunscreen products. And, the higher levels of DEET were absorbed if a person was drinking alcohol. (Think campfires, river rafting, summer concerts, beer, and summer fun!) The DEET that is taken in to the body can be found in the blood up to 12 hours after it is applied to the skin. Once in the body, DEET chemicals are broken down by the liver and eliminated within about 24 hours from the body mainly through the urine. But for those like myself, whose detoxification pathways are not working optimally, the toxins may simply build up in the body.

DEET Impacts the Environment

Here in Minnesota, where some people joke that the mosquito is our state bird, we would all feel safer without so many bugs. But it’s not realistic to think we can do away with them altogether. (Some cities are being bug-bombed, with toxic chemicals, to control bugs, but that’s concerning as well!)

Suggestions for Making Your Own Homemade Bug Repellent

If you’re an eco-conscious person like me, you’re probably not going to run out and buy the first chemical bug spray you see on the shelf at the drug store. So, what’s the alternative? There are two different ways you can make repellants, depending on whether or not you like to rub them on, or spray them on. The main ingredient for either recipe is essential oils. Essential oils (aka “the blood of plants”) are safer, and their strong natural scents have the power to repel bugs. Mixing 10 percent essential oils with a carrier oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil, is the simplest method of creating a rub-on bug repellant.

Here are some oils you may want to try:

  • Ticks: Peppermint, Geranium, Thyme, Melaleuca, Cedarwood, and Lemon Eucalyptus.

  • Mosquitoes: Peppermint, Lemon, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Thyme, Geranium, Clove, Sage, Cinnamon, Vanilla, and Rosemary

  • Flies/Gnats: Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Cedarwood, Patchouli, Melaleuca, and Rosemary.

You can also buy pre-formulated sprays that contain essential oils. Skedattle Anti-Bug Spray is available on Amazon. Independent lab testing has shown this spray to be 16 TIMES AS EFFECTIVE as DEET bug repellents!

Check it out, here:

Bugs Don’t Like B Vitamins?

Body temperature and skin chemicals such as lactic acid are said to attract mosquitoes, which explains why we get bitten more by bugs when we are sweaty. Some experts suggest we supplement with one vitamin B1 tablet a day from April through October, and then add 100 mg of B1 to a B100 Complex daily during the mosquito season to make us less attractive to mosquitoes. Regularly consuming garlic may also help protect against mosquito bites.

Candia Lea Cole

Founder, Eco-Learning Legacies


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