It’s almost that time of year again, the bugs come out and we need to protect ourselves and the kids from those bites! So what’s the big deal? Put some bug spray on and go about your business. WAIT! The conventional bug sprays you find on the shelves contain DEET. DEET is a chemical that has been shown to have some adverse effects in humans. The most common is a local skin reaction where the DEET is applied. Itching, burning, or redness of the skin can occur anytime anything is applied to the skin. In the case of DEET, the likelihood of irritation is a bit higher than average. DEET is designed for use on the skin but not on clothing. In fact, it can change the consistency of certain types of plastics, effectively dissolving them. When you spray it on your skin, it gets absorbed and eventually enters the bloodstream. It pumps through your nervous system and has been proven to kill brain cells, causing neurological damage. If you have heavy exposure to DEET, you may experience memory loss, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and shortness of breath.
DEET prevents bug bites and protects kids from serious illnesses like Lyme disease and West Nile Virus–but there are still many who question its safety. What is more harmful: the risk of infection from an insect bite or the potential health effects of the ingredients that make insecticides work?
But the bigger concern about DEET is an association with seizures. There have been 10 reported cases of seizures in children after the application of DEET, with the last one reported in 1992. In its most recent statement, the EPA argues that there are an estimated 90 million DEET users in this country, but the risk of seizure among DEET users is only one in 100 million.
DEET was developed and tested in the 1940s and 1950s by the U.S. Army for use in jungle warfare during World War II, DEET is extremely efficient at repelling mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers and blood-feeding flies such as black flies and deer flies.
In addition to popular forms such as aerosols and pump sprays, DEET is also found in towelettes, lotions, creams and gels. The chemical keeps insects away for hours after application and can be applied over sunscreen.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency re-approved the use of DEET in 1998 after an extensive safety review, new data suggests that the substance may affect our cells in unintended ways.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that DEET be sprayed over clothing, rather than directly onto the skin. Other steps to ensure that you’re applying bug spray in the safest way possible include:
- Never apply bug sprays over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
- Do not apply on hands or near the eyes and mouth, especially of young children.
- Do not allow young children to apply DEET products themselves.
- After returning indoors, wash bug spray-treated skin with soap and water.
- Heavy application is not necessary to protection, so apply it sparingly.
- Do not spray in enclosed areas.
- Some bug spray products cannot be used on children under three years old, so always check the label to make sure.
Are there alternatives to DEET?
Yes, there are most definitely natural alternatives to DEET Bug Spray. There are very potent essential oils out there that do a wonderful job and don’t harm us, our family or furry friends in anyway.
Wildroot Naturals sells “Shoo Bug!” Bug Spray that is DEET and chemical free, and nothing but natural ingredients. So it’s great for everyone in the family including your little ones. Yes, that includes your dogs as well.
Do you use Bug Sprays containing DEET? Why or why not? What are your thoughts on DEET?