Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Most Efficient and Least Toxic Mosquito Repellents for an Itchless Summer

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, Zika  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 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. There are better and safer alternatives to DEET that have been shown to be just as effective without the neurotoxic side effects.

This is why I no longer recommend DEET for children nor pregnant women.  

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.  

Ideal for: 
1.  People allergic to mosquito bites
2.  People living where there is mosquito born illnesses or tics  
3.  At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water
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.  

Tips for usage:
1. If using on kids (age 3 or older) try to spray on clothing instead of skin.  
2.  Avoid aerosol sprays
3. At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.

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
  • Peppermint oil (might contain limonene, a known allergen )

Ideal for:  
-The ocasional mosquito or if mosquitos don't really bother you

Other natural deterrents that can help you fend off  mosquito 

1. Grow highly aromatic plants like basil, thyme, lemon grass and lavender are all plants that tend to fend off mosquitoes.

2. Remove standing water from your yard: pay attention to unused planters, buckets, sandboxes and kids toys

3. Wear long sleeved shirts and pants

4. For babies in strollers always take a mosquito net for walks

My Non-Toxic Munchkin approved mosquito repellents are on my Amazon Shop

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