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It’s summer time again and that means the bugs are out and biting. Play it safe this year and soothe those stings with natural choices rather than chemical products which have adverse effects.
Summer is the season to apply lashings of common sense in the form of natural alternatives to synthetic (and potentially toxic) insect repellents which may have side effects that are more irritating and perhaps even more dangerous than the insects themselves.
Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) is the main ingredient in commercial mosquito repellents and although very effective against insects it is a synthetic chemical, a neurotoxin that could have long-term effects.
According to a Duke University study, DEET damages brain cells and can cause behavioural changes. The researchers also observed that it caused brain cell death in animals frequently exposed to or after prolonged use of DEET. 1
Additional research found that up to 15% of DEET is absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream. According to safety data sheets the toxic effects of DEET include: reproductive disturbances, genetic material mutations, and central nervous system disorders.
Insect repellents containing DEET should not be used on children under two months of age. Babies cannot metabolise chemicals as well as older children and adults, and remember that young skins are thinner and more sensitive than an adult’s.2
Thankfully there are many natural alternatives to DEET.
Remember that natural ingredients can be harmful if used indiscriminately.
MAKE YOUR OWN Mix about 30 drops of the essential oils of catnip, citronella, lavender, neem, and black pepper (total, so about 6 drops of each essential oil) into about 30 ml of an unscented and natural oil or moisturiser. Rub a bit onto your skin prior to heading outdoors. You can also mix 30 drops of these essential oils into organic soy oil for extra protection. Always do a 24-hour skin test to be sure you don’t have sensitivities to any of the oils.
Other natural ingredients to look out for are cedar, lemongrass, geranium, khakibush extract and Chrysanthemum cineriaefolium (pyrethrum).
To keep away ticks, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, with your socks pulled up over your pants cuffs and take a soapy shower after tramping through infested areas. To keep mosquitos away use netting over beds, cots and prams and the tougher kind for windows and door screens.
There really is no point in posing potential health threats to yourself and your loved ones by using chemical insect repellants when perfectly effective and safe alternatives are at hand. Enjoy the summer season bug free the natural way.
References:1. Abou-Donia, Mohamed, et al.Neurotoxicity resulting from coexposure to pyridostigmine bromide, DEET, and Permethrin.” Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health 2001;64:373-3842. Abou-Donia, Mohamed, et al. “Subchronic dermal application of N,N-diethyl m-toluamide (DEET) and permethrin to adult rats, alone or in combi- nation, causes diffuse neuronal cell death and cytoskeletal abnormalities in the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus, and purkinje neuron loss in the cerebellum.” Experimental Neurology 2001;172:153- 171.3. Christopher J. Peterson, Joel R. Coats Department of Entomology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011, ISBN13: 9780841226753eISBN: 97808412267604. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. 1993;9(3):359-360, Copyright 1993 by the American Mosquito Control Association, Inc.
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