Protecting your children from mosquitoes is important, but it does not have to come with harmful chemicals, such as DEET. While mosquitoes can carry and transmit viruses such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, these viruses are very rare and even more rarely serious. Unfortunately some of the active ingredients used in national-brand insect repellents are toxic, like DEET. DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered pesticide and a known neurotoxin — a chemical that is toxic to our nerve cells, with the potential to cause symptoms such as poor concentration, fatigue, lack of coordination, and restlessness. These nervous system symptoms can be very subtle and thus not noticed or immediately attributed to the use of DEET. In laboratory studies, regular exposure to even low doses of DEET causes brain cells to die in regions of the brain that control muscle movement, learning, memory, and concentration.
A child’s brain weighs two pounds, has one hundred miles of blood vessels and contains more nerve connections than there are stars in the Milky Way.
Children are particularly susceptible to the subtle brain effects of neurotoxic chemicals, such as DEET, because their brains are still developing and their skin absorbs chemicals more readily. The good news is that concern about DEET’s toxicity has led to natural insect repellents, which are now recognized as safe and effective alternatives. Earth Fare cares about your and your children’s health and carries only natural insect repellents. These products contain combinations of essential oils, like citronella and lemongrass, that are clinically proven to be effective AND safe. Insect repellant is not the only way to protect you and your family. You will want to take extra precautions to avoid bug bites in high-risk areas where Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, Zika or other mosquito and tick-borne illnesses are prevalent.
Headed outdoors? Here are a few tips to avoid bug bites during peak seasons:
- Cover Up. This is your first line of defense. Wear light colored pants, socks, shoes, long sleeves and bandanas when venturing into mosquito or tick-infested areas. You should also tuck your pants into socks to keep chiggers and ticks off your body.
- Use airflow. Fans keep airflow moving and nets over outdoor seating and strollers help keep bugs out.
- Read the labels. Double check the label on any insect repellant or balm for harmful ingredients and keep away from young children to avoid accidental swallowing.
- Prepare for camp. Send your kids off to camp or spring break with insect repellant long pants, long sleeved shirts, and netting for beds.
- Skip the candles. Anti-insect candles are not particularly effective and can trigger respiratory problems.
- Avoid outdoor fogger repellents. They contain toxic ingredients that are easily inhaled or ingested during and after fogging.
- Check for bugs before heading indoors. It’s easy to remember when it’s a habit, so make sure to check thoroughly for ticks before returning indoors and removing clothes.
- Consult a physician. If you or your family are outside of the U.S. this should be your first step for education and prevention.
Dr. Hind practiced traditional Internal Medicine for 17 years. Watching patients suffer under the weight of chronic illnesses such as cancer, Diabetes, and autoimmune disease, she became acutely aware of the inability of the current medical system to prevent and treat the growing epidemic of chronic disease. In 2012 she received additional training in molecular toxicology and Functional Medicine — the personalized approach to preventing and treating disease using diet, toxin avoidance, and stress reduction. In 2014 she opened You, M.D., a consulting firm dedicated to providing accurate information about the intersection between environmental toxins, industrial food and health, for businesses wanting to use health as a guide for societal change.