It is important to understand the potential risks of using insect repellent, especially on children. Spring is upon us and soon we will all be shopping for some sort of relief from bothersome insects. Due to the fear of insect-borne diseases such as encephalitis, malaria, Lyme disease, and West Nile Virus, most of us think nothing of covering ourselves and our children with a variety of bug repellent products. Parents should be aware of the potential health effects of using chemical insect repellent sprays.
There are a number of harmful side effects to most insect repelling products on the market today. The active ingredient in most of these products is called DEET, used in hundreds of brands in varying concentrations. Remember that DEET is a pesticide. Many consider DEET insect repellent to be a harmless or even beneficial mosquito repellent. Keep in mind that it is a product that is meant to do harm to living things.
A study done at Duke University’s Department of Pharmacology reports that repeated use of products containing DEET caused significant damage to the brain cells of laboratory animals. It was additionally determined that consistent exposure of humans to this pesticide results in headaches, memory loss, respiratory disorders, and fatigue. It is known that these risks are much higher in children, because of their skin’s more efficient absorption of the chemical.
Other commonly reported DEET related health effects include skin hives, redness and irritation (due to allergic reaction), a burning sensation leading to blistering and permanent scarring of the skin, nausea and vomiting, stomach irritation, mood swings, insomnia, disorientation or confusion, numbness, clumsiness, and seizures (particularly in smaller children).
More severe effects result from accidental ingestion of DEET. Most bug repellants are applied by spraying them, making inhalation a serious concern when children are present. Ingesting DEET may result in low blood pressure, low heart rate, neurological damage, coma, and death.
Do not attempt to induce vomiting if DEET has been swallowed. For issues due to skin exposure, flush the affected area with water for at least 15 minutes. See your healthcare professional immediately.
The most common alternative to DEET based repellents are pyrethrins. Pyrethrins are also a pesticide, however they are a plant-based pesticide and are considered non-toxic. When inhaled, pyrethrins can lead to breathing problems, coughing, loss of alertness, and tremors, due to oxygen imbalance within the body.
There are a number of suitable alternatives to using topical pesticides on human skin. Insect bites and stings can be prevented with insect repellents containing all-natural ingredients. These types of products are completely non-toxic, with no side effects, and are just as effective as dangerous chemical pesticides. The only difference is that they may need to be applied more often. The only possible risk associated with all-natural repellents is eye irritation particularly in young children, as some of the ingredients can sting when sprayed or wiped around the eyes.
Nature provides countless options for safe, non-toxic protection from insects. It is not necessary to use the popular insect repellent sprays or chemical mosquito repellents that cover our children’s bodies with dangerous chemicals, poisons and toxins. Chemical-free products are the solution, and are quite effective.