2008-07-18 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Best Bug Solutions
Commentary By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES For most of our childhood, and I dare say, adulthood for many of us, the recommended mosquito repellents contained the chemical DEET or permethrin. I don't recall my Mom ever reading the label and cautioning me against its use. I think we just used the products that were advertised, such as "OFF."

In these times, considering the rise in cancer and neurological disorders such as autism, environmental exposure is being more carefully considered as a potentially toxic factor for humans. We are now aware that what we put on our skins is absorbed into our bodies, carried through our bloodstreams to affect cellular and hormonal activity. All the consequences of such toxins are as yet unknown. However, we do have some evidence on ingredients such as DEET.

"According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Pesticide Information Profile Extension Toxicology Network, DEET has the potential to cause rashes, breathing difficulties, neurotoxic effects and even death, especially in susceptible individuals and those overusing the chemical. Studies have also shown that the chemical is transported from the skin to all organs of the body, enters the brain, can be transferred to babies via breast milk, and can even reach the fetus." (ACANews/ June 2008). The good news is that natural alternatives abound for blocking and repelling insects and have been a part of herbal lore and medicine for centuries. Plant oils have been used to repel bugs in farming for ages.

The most effective and well known are eucalyptus and lemon grass oils. Other essential oils are cedar wood, clove, peppermint, rosemary and frankincense. They are simple to prepare yourself by diluting 10 drops of essential oil to 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil such as grapeseed, jojoba, coconut, geranium or soybean.

Carrier oils tend to buffer the skin from the harshness of a concentrated oil and prevent skin irritation.

Neem oil is well known in herbal circles for its effectiveness at repelling insects. Both neem and rosemary oils are useful to use in the hair to prevent lice in an outbreak. Neem is relatively non-toxic even in high amounts although caution is advised for use in women of child bearing age and those trying to conceive.

According to the American Chemical Society, catnip oil is nearly as effective as DEET in repelling bugs and with none of the harmful side effects.

Natural products such as these, as well as the essential oils, are generally carried in chain stores such as The Vitamin Shoppe or Whole Foods. Local health food stores may carry lines such as Burt's Bees which has an herbal insect repellent.

You can shop online for any of these products simply by googling the name of the oil or type in "natural bug repellent." You could suggest to the management of our local supermarkets and pharmacies that you would be interested in having them carry a line of natural products.

This year, there do appear to be more mosquitoes out even in the daytime, so it does behoove you to be protected, especially if your skin is very sensitive and if you are allergic to bug bites.

Remember that mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. Be sure to watch for pools of water that haven't drained after a rainstorm and either drain them or stay clear of them.

Summer is a glorious time in Rockaway and we all await it with such great anticipation. By being aware of your surroundings and taking thoughtful and safe precautions, you can bask in the sunshine with wild abandon! It is just what the doctor ordered!

So here is my prescription for you all to get out and enjoy the elements.

May The Blessings Be!

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