As summer heats up here in Canada, biting insects are everywhere. Gnats, no-see-ums, black flies, and mosquitos can certainly ruin a pleasant summer evening. Not only are insect bites annoying, they can also be harmful if they are carrying disease. According to the Government of Canada, a few of the diseases that can be contracted from mosquitoes in Canada include, West Nile virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, and California Serogroup virus.
The traditional way to repel biting insects is by applying thick layers of commercial bug repellent. Insect repellent has a host of nasty chemicals in them including DEET. What is DEET and how toxic is it? DEET (chemical name N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is an active ingredient in most bug repellents and can be found in lotions, sprays, wipes, and even in bug resistant fabrics. Concentrations of DEET range from 10% to 100%. DEET is a pesticide that was developed by the U.S. Army for soldiers who were deployed in areas heavily infested with mosquitos. In 1957, DEET was classified as a pesticide and became available for the general public.
When DEET is applied to the skin, the chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream and makes its way into the liver. From there the chemicals are broken down and then eventually eliminated. In general, it takes about 24 hours for DEET to leave the body.
Why do people apply DEET? Because it is very effective in repelling mosquitos. The chemicals disrupt the scent receptors of the female mosquito, and when she cannot smell human blood, she will not try and draw blood.
Is DEET Dangerous To Use?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States, their studies have shown no conclusive evidence that DEET causes serious health problems, even in children! And yet studies have shown that people who regularly use DEET products can experience rashes, skin irritations, headaches, nausea, and even difficulty concentrating. One study performed by Duke University Pharmocologist, Mohamed Abou-Donia, Ph.D, states that “frequent and prolonged applications of DEET cause neurons to die in regions of the brain that control muscle movement, learning, memory and concentration.”
Personally, I do not want to apply any sort of pesticide on my body and certainly not on my kids bodies!
What Alternatives Do I Have?
According to the Malaria Journal, there are several plant based products that can repel mosquitos. One of the most potent is lemon eucalyptus oil. The extract comes from the leaves of the lemon eucalyptus tree, and is shown to contain about 85% citronella. The Chinese have used this oil as a deterrent for centuries.
Peppermint, cedar, pine, thyme, and rosemary, lavender and citronella, geraniol oils have all been found to be effective. However, essential oils can be quite potent and volatile and should be used with caution, as direct contact with the skin can cause irritation.
Try out this natural home-made bug spray that is easy to use on yourself and your kids as well. Courtesy of Wellness Mama!
Use 10-30 drops of essential oils listed above into a glass spray bottle. Add 1 Tbsp of rubbing alcohol, 1/2 cup of natural witch hazel,1/2 cup of water (or vinegar) and 1 tsp of vegetable glycerin. Shake well before each application.
Fresh & Dried Herbs
You can also rub fresh lavender on your skin. Not only will this help to discourage bugs bites, but will make you smell lovely as well. You can burn citronella candles, and plant herbs in your garden to help repel mosquitos. Basil is supposed to help repel the nasty little buggers, and having a basil plant or two in your garden is always recommended for cooking with as well. You can also have your kids wear natural bands that may help to repel bug bites.
>Make sure to keep your immune system healthy as well. Have a glass every day of Isagenix Greens to make sure you get plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet. Made with more than 33 different vegetables and herbs to help your body fight off free radicals, boost immune health and aid in detoxification, including ginkgo biloba leaf, green tea extract and grape seed extract, this is a great way to help keep your body running in tip-top shape!
Summer is the time to be outside playing and don’t let biting insects deter you. Simply try some of the plants and essential oils we talked about and keep those little buggers away!