Insect Repellent

What's the safest way to protect our skin from mosquitoes and other insects? According to this article published by the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia, DEET is not a safe choice.

DEET is a registered pesticide. DEET is short for N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (also known as N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide). It is a member of the toluene chemical family. Toluene is an organic solvent used in rubber and plastic cements and paint removers. DEET is absorbed through the skin and passes into the blood. The Medical Sciences Bulletin, published by Pharmaceutical Information Associates Ltd. reports, "Up to 56% of DEET applied topically penetrates intact human skin and 17% is absorbed into the bloodstream." Blood concentrations of about 3 mg per litre have been reported several hours after DEET repellent was applied to skin in the prescribed fashion. DEET is also absorbed by the gut.

Natural alternatives must be applied more frequently but offer no harmful effects.

You can make your own by mixing 10-25 drops of essential oil with 2 tablespoons of carrier oil. Carrier oils include jojoba, almond, and coconut. Castor oil has repellent capabilities and can be used as well.

Suggested essential oils include:

• Lemon Eucalyptus
• Citronella
• Lemongrass
• Tea Tree
• Cinnamon

The Centers for Disease Control recommends DEET and Picaridin (which is determined to be among the least toxic chemicals, as documented by the organization Beyond Pesticides), but also validates the effectiveness of natural options. According to the CDC's website:

Oil of lemon eucalyptus [active ingredient: p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD)], a plant-based repellent, is also registered with EPA. In two recent scientific publications, when oil of lemon eucalyptus was tested against mosquitoes found in the US it provided protection similar to repellents with low concentrations of DEET.

The best way to treat an insect bite? Two options include:

• Baking soda
• Bentonite clay

Make a paste with filtered water and allow to dry.