Insect Repellent: Natural Vs. DEET

There are two categories of Insect Repellents:

  1. Natural
  2. and those containing DEET

BOTH PROTECT your skin from biting insects, however DEET has been shown to cause a long list of adverse reactions in both adults and children. Biopesticide or natural insect repellents (sometimes called "botanical" or "plant-based") have been proven to be as effective as those containing synthetic chemical compounds like DEET and if you are going to be in the outdoors, BE SMART. Use a natural insect repellent!

WHAT IS DEET? DEET is an insect repellent that is used in products to prevent bites from insects such as mosquitoes, biting flies, fleas and small flying insects. DEET is a colorless liquid that has a faint odor and does not dissolve easily in water. DEET was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 for protection of soldiers in insect-infested areas. Insect repellents containing DEET have been used by the general public in the United States since 1957.

WHAT ARE SOME SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS FROM EXPOSURE TO DEET? When products containing DEET get into the eyes, they may 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. Very rarely, 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.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN DEET ENTERS THE BODY? When products containing DEET get into the eyes, they may cause irritation, pWhen DEET was applied to the skin of volunteers by researchers, they found that a small amount of the DEET was taken into the body through the skin. When DEET and alcohol are applied to the skin, more DEET is taken into the skin compared with DEET alone. Drinking alcohol may also cause more DEET to be absorbed through the skin. Sunscreen products that contain DEET may cause more DEET to be taken into the body through the skin.

The DEET that is taken into the body can be found in the blood up to 12 hours after it is applied to the skin. Once in the body, DEET is broken down by the liver and eliminated from the body mainly through the urine. All of the DEET that is taken in by the body is broken down into smaller chemicals before it is eliminated. Nearly all of the DEET that is taken in through the skin is eliminated by the body within 24 hours of applying it.

WHAT NATURAL INGREDIENTS ARE GOOD REPLACEMENTS FOR DEET? Biopesticide or natural insect repellents (sometimes called "botanical" or "plant-based") have been proven to be as effective as those containing synthetic chemical compounds like DEET. Remember, however, that "natural insect repellent" doesn't always mean safe, so you should use plant-based insect repellents as carefully as any other. Follow the instructions -- and your common sense -- when using any potentially harmful product, especially when children or pregnant women are involved.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus is a potent repellent, effective against mosquitoes, deer ticks and other pests. There's also a synthetic form of lemon eucalyptus oil known as PMD that's also effective. Both of these compounds are found in several brands of repellents that market themselves as natural. Parents should note that lemon eucalyptus oil is not considered safe for children under the age of three.