Friday, June 19, 2015

Its a Bugs Life: Safest Options In Order To Avoid Getting Bitten This Summer

Photo Credit:  www.Howipinchapeny.com

Summer fun = long days, sun, picnics, hikes, water activities, outdoor time and, yes BUGS.   Mosquitoes, ticks -  they all love the summer months and there are few things worse than a child that has been bitten by a couple of mosquitoes and can’t. Stop. Scratching.   What is worse, though?  The illnesses many of these bugs can spread.  Lyme disease affects about 300,000 people each year.  Dengue, West Nile and  Chikungunya are increasingly common.  

Guess what? May through August is peak period for ticks and mosquitoes in the US - so we are in the heart of it in most places around the country.  So, in addition to putting on sunblock, you need to think about bug repellent.... but which is the most effective and which are safe to use on children?


DEET
DEET works.   There is no doubt about it, however it is a very strong chemical with serious potencial side effects like seizures, disorientation and slurred speech.  If for some reason you have to use DEET (if you live in an areas infested with disease-carrying pests), use it but do not abuse it.   Always choose a product with less than 30% DEET (increasing concentration does not increase efficacy) and try not to overuse; this should NOT be used on a daily basis, especially on children.  Canadian authorities suggest  children ages 6 months - 2 years who live in infested areas should only use products with concentrations of  5-10% and limit application to once per day (children 2 years- 12 should limit to 3 times a day)

LEMON EUCALYPTUS
The good news is that the CDC, Environmental Working Group and Consumer Report has found that lemon eucalyptus oil is just as effective as DEET and a much safer alternative.   The bad news is that it is not advisable to use in children under 3 years of age.  Additionally, lemon eucalyptus can cause “severe but temporary eye injuries”  so you need to keep it away from eyes.  The most effective of the bunch that Consumer Reports found was  Repel with Lemon Eucalyptus, however the company does not disclose its ingredients.   It only says the product is 30% Lemon Eucalyptus.   A company that will not disclose what 70% of its ingredients are is shady, so I would not recommend. 

This is still a chemical, but if you are facing massive tick infestations it is a better alternative to DEET.  30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus (p-Menthane-3,8-diol) warded off mosquitoes for at least 7 hours and kept deer ticks away for at least 6 hours.  If using on kids (age 3 or older) try to spray on clothing instead of skinAt the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.

PICARIDIN 
This is a synthetic chemical made to resemble piperine, the natural compound found in plants used to make black pepper.  In order for it to be effective the spray must contain at least 20% picaridin.  

The Environmental Working Group considers Picaridin  to be a good DEET alternative with many of the same advantages and without the same disadvantages- however recognizes longer term studies are necessary.  

This is a good alternative for those days when you need full coverage (walk in the woods etc) but, ideally, not on a daily basis.  

BOTANICAL INGREDIENTS
Although they have been found to be less effective than the chemicals listed above, depending on where you live if there are no serious illnesses threatening, it might be worth it to try these products first since they are much safer for young children.  
Among them:
  • Carnip oil:  7% and 15% concentrations offer 7 hours of mosquito protection, no tick protection
  • Citronella: 4.2% concentration  provides 1 hour of mosquito and tick protection.  Citronella may cause allergic skin reactions , so use with caution
  • Castor oil
  • Cedar oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Pepermint oil (might contain limonene, a known allergen )



RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS
Ingredients: Oil of Soybean 11.5%, Oil of Citronella 10.0%, Oil of Peppermint 2.0%, Oil of Cedar 1.50%, Oil of Lemongrass 1.00%, Oil of Geranium 0.05%, (73%) Water, Glyceryl Stearate, Beeswax, Vegetable Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid.
Comments: I would recommend this only against pesky mosquitoes and not against ticks or if disease carrying mosquitoes are a problem (ie:  West Nile or other diseases)
Ingredients: Active Ingredients: 23% Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, 10% Ricinus Communis (Castor) Oil, and Essential Oils of 4%, Cymbopogon Nardus (Citronella), 2% Cedrus Atlantica (Cedar), 2% Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (Lemongrass), 1.5% Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary), and 1% Mentha Piperita (Peppermint).  Inactive Ingredients: Water and 0.5% Gaultheria Procumbens (Wintergreen)
Comments:  this is the one we are currently using and, so far, has worked well. Dries quickly and has a nice smell. Once again, I would recommend this only against pesky mosquitoes and not against ticks or if disease carrying mosquitoes are a problem (ie:  West Nile or other diseases)
Ingredients: glycine soja (soybean) oil, ricinus communis (castor) seed oil, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil, cymbopogon schoenanthus (lemongrass) oil, thuja occidentalis (cedar) leaf oil, mentha piperita (peppermint) oil, cymbopogon nardus (citronella) oil, eugenia caryophyllus (clove) flower oil, geranium maculatum (geranium) oil, tocopherol
Comments:   Its easy to find at most drugstores, which is convenient.  Its a bit oily, but works well against mosquitoes. Once again, I would recommend this only against pesky mosquitoes and not against ticks or if disease carrying mosquitoes are a problem (ie:  West Nile or other diseases)
Active Ingredients: Citronella, lemongrass and cedar essential oils, Inactive Ingredients: water, lecithin, soap bark, vegetable glycerin USP
Comments:   I have used this for short walks during mosquito season- not sure about how effective it would be in the woods- and I would not recommend where there are ticks. However, it worked for us when we did use it against mosquitoes. 
Ingredients: 23% Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil*, 10% Ricinus Communis (Castor) Oil*, And Essential Oils Of 4% Cymbopogon Nardus (Citronella)*, 2% Cedrus Atlantica (Cedar)*, 2% Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (Lemongrass)*, 1.5% Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary)*, 1% Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium)*, 1% Mentha Piperita (Peppermint)*
INACTIVE INGREDIENTS (55.5%):
Water, Essential Oil Of 0.5% Gaultheria Procumbens (Wintergreen)*
Comments:  I haven’t tried this one yet but I might next time I order from them.  The ingredients look good and, generally speaking, I like the company.   Once again, I would recommend this only against pesky mosquitoes and not against ticks or if disease carrying mosquitoes are a problem (ie:  West Nile or other diseases)
Similar effect to DEET, yet it won’t harm gear and equipment. Picaridin repels mosquitoes and ticks like DEET and it also repels biting flies, stable flies, black flies, gnat, chiggers, and sand flies. At 20% active ingredient Picaridin; this long lasting topical insect repellent is effective up to 14 hours (lotion) and 12 hours (spray) against mosquitoes and ticks, and up to 8 hours against biting flies, gnats, chiggers, and sand flies.

Comments: Consumer Reports recently rated this their #1 repellent.   Similar to the Lemon Eucalyptu product mentioned before, I could not find disclosure of the ingredients other than picaridin in the spray (wich make up 80% of the formulation).   I would use with precautions.   Experts say it is a safer option than DEET.

CHEMICAL FREE  PRECAUTIONS THAT HELP DETER BUG BITES
  1.  Protect infants under 2 months from mosquitoes by using an infant carrier covered with mosquito netting with elastic edge 
  2. Use long sleeve clothing and pants
  3. Set up a fan on your back patio, or outdoor play area
  4. Keep peak feeding hours in mind and try to avoid when possible (dusk to dawn for most mosquitoes).



REMEMBER
  • Don’t use: Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD on children younger than 3 years old.
  • Only resort to DEET in extreme circumstances. If you must use DEET products stick to concentrations less than 30 percent
  • Avoid repellent mixed with sunscreen:  sunscreen needs to be reapplied often- which could result in overexposing yourself to the bug repellent. 
  • Avoid aerosol sprays in pressurized containers:  you and your young children can inhale chemicals.  instead, stick to lotions or sprays which are easier to control and apply

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