Safe Bug Spray

Did you know if you turn the bottle over for your most common bug sprays, it tells you that when you are done being outside to wash off any areas of the skin that were exposed to the repellant?  How many of us actually do that after we have sprayed our kids and ourselves?

DEET Proponents
DEET, which is found in most common bug repellants has become a very controversial topic. The CDC, some physicians, and  manufacturers of DEET (surprise, surprise) say that DEET has been used by millions of Americans for decades and there have only been about 20+ cases of DEET causing serious reactions (death, seizures, etc.).  Instead, they claim, we have more to fear from Lyme disease from ticks if we don't use DEET and DEET is safe if used in the right concentrations (less than 30%).

DEET Opponents
On the other end of the spectrum, the organic/natural community believes we should avoid the use of DEET in most cases.  Studies show that the use of DEET may interfere with the nervous system (Rodale News). Rats sprayed with DEET with the same proportions as humans use showed very visible decrease in muscle control and coordination (Quantum Health).  In addition, the effects of DEET can be even more severe if used in combination with other pesticides (spraying the garden to keep leaf eating bugs away).  DEET also ends up in our rivers and lakes and potentially our drinking supply. 

Here is what I felt to be the most objective article on the subject.

What They Agree On
What both sides can agree on--don't digest it. It is a poison and you never use DEET based products on infants.  But how about a 1 year old that puts everything in his mouth? 


What I Think
Here is my take.  There doesn't seem seem to be enough research on the long term effects of these products.  Yes, if you spray yourself once, you only have 1 chance in 200,000 million to have some severe side effect and you are more likely to get Lyme disease.  On the other hand, what about the subtle effects?  This stuff is obviously toxic if digested, but what about the long term effects?  How do people know if 10-15 years down the road, their kids learning disability was largely do to the effects of DEET.  I would like to see studies on populations who use DEET regularly vs those that do not.  And I am greatly concerned about DEET getting into our water supplies.  One more way we are ruining the wonderful world that God left us.

What Do I Do
If my family and I are planning to take a trip to a part of the world where the West Nile Virus is common, I probably will spray us with DEET.  However, for everyday living, other than praying for my kids and asking for God's protection,  I have started to use a homemade bug spray.  It actually has worked pretty well.  I usually get eaten up alive by mosquitoes, more so than any other member of my family, but when I have that on...nothing.  And my daughter loves the smell.  I haven't quite checked its efficiency against ticks but I will find out this summer.  Last summer I pulled 2 ticks from my daughter with intermittent use of DEET bug sprays.  I do make it a habit to check her regularly if she is playing outside so I am not too worried.

Recipe for Homemade Bug Spray:  Boil 1.5 Tablespoons Dried Catnip and 1.5 Tablespoons Dried Lavender, 2 cloves with 1 cup distilled water and put it in a spray bottle.  Very easy and I can even rub this on my 3 month old and not have to worry about potential side effects if she happens to put her hand in her mouth.  Can't take the credit for the recipe.  Go to Wellness Mama for more great bug spray recipes.

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