If you find that bugs or insects are feeding on your kids, be careful that the toxic “solution” does not put your children at greater health risk than the problem. Many of the bug repellent sprays, lotions or liquids that are used on children to repel ticks, mosquitos or other insects contain the chemicals Permethrin and/or DEET. The good news is that these chemicals are not necessary since there are natural bug repellent options that are safe and effective.
What’s the Problem with DEET?
DEET is a pesticide that is partially absorbed into the bloodstream and associated with skin and neurological reactions. Seizures and several cases of toxic encephalopathy (brain damage) have been associated with the use of DEET in children.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a Re-registration Eligibility Decision (RED) for DEET in late 1998, but with this decision, the EPA will not re-register DEET products marketed specifically at children, claiming them to be misleading. Due to their alcohol base, these low percentage DEET formulas may actually increase absorption into the bloodstream, especially when reapplied frequently to increase effectiveness. The EPA expressed concern about the fact that DEET is widely used, is one of the few registered pesticides applied directly to human skin and is potentially related to seizure incidents. As a result, the RED calls for stronger label warnings and restrictions that are protective of children and others who are sensitive to chemical substances.
Is Permethrin any Better?
Permethrin is a synthetic contact insecticide, causing nervous system toxicity that leads to the death of the insect. It is said to have low toxicity in mammals, and is poorly absorbed through the skin. However, it’s wise to stay away from any synthetic pesticide, especially when there are safe alternatives to do the job.
Good Natural Bug Repellent Alternatives
There are many good natural bug repellent products on the market. Search for products with ingredients that are DEET-free, natural, and non-toxic with multiple herbs or essential oils. Products containing vanillin work well. Here are some good products to consider: Bite Blocker, Quantum Health’s Buzz Away, and Bygone Bugz from Lakon Herbal Co.
Buy or Make Your Own Natural Bug Repellent
Essential oils that have been reported to work well as a natural bug repellent include citronella, cedar, verbena, geranium, lavender, pine, cajeput, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, thyme, allspice, garlic, and peppermint. Calendula ointment is also an excellent insect repellent. When tested, most of the essential oils tended to give short-lasting protection, usually less than 2 hours. But reapplying the essential oils is a small price to pay for keeping a child protected from insects while free from potentially harmful insecticides.
Neem Oil is a Natural Bug Repellent
Neem oil is a highly effective, non-toxic, natural bug repellent that can also be used on open sores and wounds. Neem oil heals wounds, cuts, sores, poison oak or ivy, and has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. Neem provides protection from not only mosquitoes but also from biting flies, sand fleas and ticks.
You can find products that contain Neem Oil or you can make your own natural bug repellent using 5% Neem oil mixed with coconut oil.
Recipe for Natural Bug Repellent
Here is a another recipe for making your own safe, natural bug repellent:
Insect-Aside Bug Repellent
(extracted from Herbal Healing for Children: A Parent’s Guide to Treatments for Common Childhood Illnesses, by Demetria Clark)
Yield: About ¼ cup
¼ cup olive, almond, or apricot kernel oil
8 drops cedar essential oil
5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
4 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops orange essential oil
2 drops lemon essential oil
1 drop peppermint essential oil
1 drop clove essential oil
1 drop cinnamon essential oil
Combine all the ingredients in a 5- or 6-ounce glass bottle with a lid and shake to mix well. Stored in a sealed dark-glass bottle in a cool, dry place, Insect-Aside Bug Repellent will keep for 2 years. Shake well before each use.
Application Instructions: For children five years of age and older: Shake well before using. Apply liberally to exposed skin 3 to 4 times a day. Keep away from the eyes.
IMPORTANT: It’s possible for people to have sensitivities to essential oils so use with caution and if your child has a reaction, discontinue use. Never apply undiluted essential oils directly to skin. Always mix them in a carrier oil first.
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