How to Go Green with Silv: Insect Repellent by Silvia Milanova, July 09 2012, 0 Comments

Photo courtesy of Chi Tranter via Flickr. 

It’s that time of the year again; it’s hot, humid and hazy—the perfect environment for those pesky little mosquitoes, gnats and ticks! Five minutes outside in this weather, and if you're like me, you’re already scratching and rubbing your irritated, red, newfound bumps. But before you pop open that bottle of bug spray in search of relief, you might want to read the label for the ingredients. What you find is inside might not be so relieving… 

What you will find inside these repellents is N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, abbreviated as DEET, a yellow oil used in most insect repellents, which can be applied to the skin or clothing. However, beware when applying DEET to broken or damaged skin. This chemical is irritating and exposure may increase humans’ chances for insomnia, mood disturbances and impaired cognitive function. The neurotoxicity of DEET can also be strengthened when mixed with certain other substances and chemicals. Although classified as ‘safe’ when used appropriately, DEET has been linked to rare cases of seizures and even some deaths due to unnecessary and prolonged exposure. 

If you’re using insect repellents this summer on yourself and your children, make sure to follow all directions. Avoid using products which contain more than 30 percent DEET, and 10 percent for very young children. Safer and greener alternatives can certainly be found on the market. If spraying chemicals on your skin (that you’ll have to wash off later), does not sound appealing to you, some natural, essential oils may help ward off some of those mosquitoes and ticks. 

A good, and most importantly effective alternative to products containing DEET, can be lemon eucaluptus oil. Some studies show that this natural oil can be just as effective in repelling insects as DEET. Other oils with efficient repelling properties (which you can use alone or mix), are neem and rosemary. 

For an effective homemade solution, try mixing equal parts vinegar with water and spraying it on exposed skin; or use garlic juice instead (1 part juice, 5 water). 

For a spray found in stores, a frequently-recommended solution is Herbal Armor™, by ALL TERRAIN®. The company claims that the product is 100 percent effective for up to two hours, 95.8 percent effective for three hours and 77.1 percent effective for four hours. It is formulated with five essential oils and vitamins C & E. Herbal Armor is also DEET-free and biodegradable.

Yet, the most natural and safe solution from bug bites just might be your clothing. Cover as much skin as possible considering the weather, and make sure the fabrics are eco-friendly (like organic-cotton), and tightly woven. If all else fails, you can always stay inside, in a comfortably air-conditioned room!