Bug sprays with DEET have been deemed safe for adults and children three months or older by the EPA, but no long-term studies have been done on the potential cumulative or chronic affects. The chemical is a strong defender against ticks and mosquitoes, but it can be irritating to the skin and some research has linked it to seizures and mood disorders. Exposure to DEET may also increase the negative effects of other chemicals regularly used in our environment like weed killer.
Introduced into the United States in 2005, Picaridin is a bug-repelling ingredient found in multiple traditional bug sprays. Its synthetic make-up is similar to the chemicals found in pepper and is nearly odorless. Unlike DEET, Picaridin has been shown to be gentler on the skin, especially for those who are particularly sensitive to irritants. While it appears safer than DEET, studies are limited to only two years in length on this repellent.
Oil of lemon, eucalyptus, lemongrass and cinnamon are natural choices that protect your skin from those buzzing pests. The smells of these essential oils are said to be unpleasant or confusing to mosquitoes, ticks and lice. But even though these ingredients are plant-based, they can still be irritating or harmful if ingested or rubbed into the eyes, so don’t use it on children under 3 years old.
Find a plethora of natural repellents with these ingredients in health food stores and online. Make your own by mixing 10-20 drops of the repelling oil per two tablespoons of a natural carrier, such as organic coconut oil, sunflower oil or witch hazel. Store in a dark bottle away from heat and sunlight.
More Bug-Zapping Ideas
One of the best ways to avoid bug bites is to wear protective clothing whenever possible. If you’re in an area prone to ticks, be sure to wear light clothes, tuck your socks into your pants and check yourself for ticks regularly.
On the home front, eliminate any standing water to get rid of mosquito breeding zones. And your best protection bet is to stay indoors or enjoy a screened-in porch at dusk or evening hours when bug levels are high.