By Dr. Jacqueline Germain

It’s that season again. We love the sun and the long daylight hours. With those comes another summer given: insect bites.

The principle behind bug repellents is, of course, to repel. The repellent’s job is to keep you as unappealing to the insects as possible. DEET is the most common repellent used in the United States. There are plenty of reasons to choose otherwise.

In studies, the transdermal (across the skin) absorption of DEET ranges from 5-17% in humans and the absorption continues as long as the DEET containing product remains on the skin. A study by The National Park Service found that test subjects exposed to DEET reported various side-effects including headaches, dizziness, skin irritations, rashes, nausea, numbness and burning lips. Researchers at Duke University found that long-term exposure to DEET can kill brain cells and cause behavioral changes. It is a neurotoxin.

Let’s choose a natural alternative. The USDA conducted a study comparing natural repellents against DEET products. A commercial repellent containing lemon eucalyptus essential oil was actually more effective than the low concentration DEET product marketed for children. Other essential oils have also shown to be effective. These include: peppermint, rose geranium, pine, beautyberry, catnip, and rosemary. I have used a combination essential oil product in a convenient spray form that is available at The Center for several years and am totally pleased with its effectiveness. I spray it on my dogs as well, and they keep tick-free on our long walks. It’s safe for adults, children and our pets.

I have heard that Listerine, the original medicinal type, is an effective mosquito repellent when applied to outdoor furniture, decks, even the lawn around a play area. It can be used in a spray bottle for easy dispersal. One of the main ingredients in this original Listerine is Eucalyptol, the essential oil of eucalyptus. I haven’t tried it yet, but I would refrain from applying it directly to human skin because of the other ingredients.

Have a wonderful and natural summer!

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