Insect repellent is commonly called “bug spray” and is a necessary product in many regions during the hot summer months. Bug sprays can be applied to skin, clothing, or other surfaces which discourages insects to land, protecting your skin. Insect repellents help prevent and control the outbreak of diseases such as malaria, lyme disease, dengue, and West Nile fever.
However, one question always comes to mind: are these products safe or do they contain dangerous chemicals? Reading the ingredient list of any bug spray product is essential to ensure you are not applying a potentially dangerous product to your body.
Most bug repellents contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) as their active ingredient. DEET works well to repel bugs but this ingredient has been known to cause multiple health issues. DEET is absorbed through the skin and enters the bloodstream fairly quickly. Symptoms of swallowing sprays which contain DEET can go from breathing difficulty, coughing, loss of alertness, and upset stomach to nausea, vomiting, tremors, and seizures.
Additionally, DEET may cause a variety of skin reactions such as hives or mild skin redness, as well as more severe skin irritation such as blistering, burning, and permanent scars. DEET can also trigger temporary burning and redness of eye. If DEET is sprayed into these parts of the body, wash the area immediately to prevent further damage. High usage of DEET bug sprays may also result in more serious issues including low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and insomnia.
A variety of natural ingredients can be effective to keep the bugs away. Essential oils have been shown to work efficiently and several oils are highly recommended including neem, cedarwood, citronella, clove, lemongrass, tea tree, mint, lavender, rosemary, grapeseed, jojoba, almond, olive, and witch hazel. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil has been reported to be an excellent natural substitution for DEET in repelling insects. Soybean oil-based products also work fairly well providing on average 1.5 hours of protection from bites and are non-irritating to the skin.
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