Take the Bite Out of Summer


A Greene Westford column reposted.  This was originally posted in July 2011.



DEET vs. Disease: You may not need to choose.

Mosquitoes, ticks and other biting insects are not a favorite come summer.  With the threat of West Nile virus and Lyme disease, not to mention the annoying itching, bug sprays are a must.  But the danger of some of the chemicals used in bug repellents may not be too comforting either. 
DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the most common ingredient in conventional insect repellents. According to research by Duke University, DEET can affect the nervous system and is linked with brain cell damage, behavioral changes and harmful interactions with some medications in laboratory animals.   
West Nile Virus and Lyme disease can be very harmful.  Although, according to the CDC, no cases of West Nile have been reported in New England this year, there have been cases in the past. Lyme is all too common unfortunately and can be dangerous if left untreated.
Adverse effects from DEET are rare while cases of West Nile and Lyme are much more common. That may lead you to think that the risk of DEET is worth the prevention of West Nile and Lyme. However,we still don’t know enough about the long term effects of DEET. Information is the key.  If you know your options and the risks associated with each, you can decide what is best for you and your family. At the very least you are aware and can reduce, if not eliminate, any dangers you fear.
When using a DEET product:
  • Mosquitoes do not like the smell of DEET.  Put it on clothes, not skin, to limit your exposure but still prevent mosquitoes.
  • Look for a pump instead of a spray to lessen the chance you will inhale the product.
  • Higher concentrations of DEET will allow the product to work for longer periods of time.  You can use a lower concentration and reapply more frequently, if needed.
  • Read the directions and follow them! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes that as long as you use products with DEET appropriately, the there is no harm.
Natural Repellents
  • Lemon Eucalyptus oil has been shown to be as effective against mosquitoes and ticks as DEET with the added benefit of being a natural product. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Consumer Reports recommend lemon eucalyptus. A July 2010 Consumer Reports study rated Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus just as high as others with DEET. Lemon Eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years of age. You may need to reapply more frequently. 
  • The Whole Body Spa in Westford offers Keep Away Bug Spray which contains mix of essential oils. I have been using this with much success.

How do you keep insects away?

[Photo used under Creative Commons license by Adriadna]



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7 Responses to Take the Bite Out of Summer

  1. rewinn June 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    A few years ago, I had great luck with Avon skin-so-soft, but lately I’ve just stayed away from places with mosquitos.

    • Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) June 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

      I haven’t tried Avon in a while, but remember how well it worked. I try to stay away from mosquitoes too. Thanks for stopping by Rewinn!

  2. Small Footprints June 11, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    Thanks for this info … I’ve struggled with the choice because I seem to be a mosquito and tick magnet (I tell my hubby it’s because I’m SO SWEET … LOL). When I’m in the forest, I use a spray (OFF) … I know it’s not great but nothing else seems to work for me and even with the spray, I come home and do an immediate check because I inevitably have a tick “digging in” (I know … GROSS). At home, I do my best to keep mosquitoes away … I don’t allow any water to puddle up and plant things which tend to keep them away. Great info as always! 🙂

    • Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) June 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

      OMG! My youngest daughter is a mosquito magnet too! We tell her the same thing 😉 She can get bit in the middle of winter! And I struggle with it too. Not only are her bites uncomfortable, but they can get really nasty looking, swell, and last a long time. So far we are having luck with the locally made spray, but it’s still early in the year to really tell. At the very least I like knowing (and remembering) to only spray our clothing and take a shower if we choose to use DEET.

    • Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) June 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      I’ll have to keep that in mind. I am just starting to explore essential oils for medicinal use. Right now I still get them so confused! Thanks for stopping by with a helpful tip!

  3. Mammawgo July 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    I have already used Listerine mouthwash in a spray bottle to spray around any area that we would be eating outside, and on the top of my sunhat and on my clothes to keep bugs at bay. I have already used a generic brand of listerine since it is expensive.

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