N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, abbreviated DEET, is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. It is intended to be applied to the skin or to clothing, and provides protection against tick bites, mosquito bites, chiggers, and other insects that can transmit disease. It has a faint odor and does not dissolve easily in water. DEET has been used in a number of insect repellent products including liquid sprays, lotions, and sticks. It has been estimated that about 30% of the U.S. population uses one or more products that contain DEET every year.
There are four ways that people can be exposed to chemicals: contact to their skin, contact to their eyes, breathing them in, or eating them. DEET is often used directly on skin. DEET may also be inhaled when sprays are used around the body and in indoor spaces where the vapors can remain for some time. It may also be possible to swallow DEET if your hands are not washed after using DEET on skin. People have had adverse reactions to DEET when they applied it to parts of their body that contacted other skin surfaces, and when they applied it to skin that was under clothing.
When products containing DEET get into the eyes, they can cause irritation, pain and watery eyes. People that have left DEET products on their skin for extended periods of time have experienced irritation, redness, a rash, and swelling. People that have swallowed products containing DEET have experienced stomach upset, vomiting, and nausea. In rare cases, exposure to DEET has been associated with seizures in people. Most of these reactions have happened after drinking products with DEET in them or using the products in ways that do not follow label directions. If you insist on using it, try to spray it on your clothes rather than directly on the skin and avoid breathing the fumes while spray it on.
Buy Greener Mosquito Repellents -- Health food stores now carry a wide variety of herbal bug repellents. Look for these effective herbal ingredients that repel mosquitoes: basil, eucalyptus, cloves, geranium, peppermint, rosemary, lemon balm (citronella), onions, garlic, and feverfew.
Or make your own Mosquito Repellent Oil using 10 drops of one of these essential oils, or a mixture: basil, eucalyptus, cloves, geranium, peppermint, rosemary, lemon balm (citronella), onions, garlic, and feverfew. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Combine the ingredients in a glass jar; stir to blend. Dab a few drops on your skin or clothing. If you don't want to smell like dinner, do not add the onions and garlic, and eat plenty of them instead.
Try these easy tips:
- Up your intake of vitamin B-1. Fisherman and other outdoorsy folks swear by it: one B-1 tablet a day during mosquito season will prevent mosquito bites.
- Grilling? Toss a bit of rosemary or sage on the coals. The pests detest the smell, but humans find it delightful.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to dark-colored clothing; go light.
- Lactic acid produced after eating high-potassium foods (like bananas, for instance) will attract mosquitoes. Hold off on that banana split until you plan to be indoors.
- Fruity or floral fragrances are mosquito-attractants.
- Tansy, rosemary, and basil plants repel mosquitoes. Keep pots of these herbs growing near your outdoor sitting areas.
ITCH RELIEF - Apply a drop of osha root tincture to mosquito bites and the itch will magically disappear. If you can't find the tincture, try making a paste of water and baking soda and dab that on the bite instead.