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To ‘DEET’ or not to ‘DEET’

By Don Allphin - | Aug 19, 2014

An important part of any summertime outdoor adventure is managing mosquitoes. Those who don’t appreciate the correctness of that last statement haven’t been miles and miles away from the nearest store only to discover they have no way to repel mosquitoes. One of our cherished family stories includes a run-in with the Yellowstone National Park version of the standard mosquito.

We love to hike into Grebe Lake as part of any of our family vacations. Grebe Lake lies to the north of the road that connects Norris Junction and the Canyon area. A large parking lot anchors visitors at the trailhead of a 3 1/2-mile well-worn path through marshes and forests ending at a beautiful lake teaming with graylings and rainbow trout. Years ago, my older sister Elizabeth, her husband Norman and several of their children joined our young family on a trek to Grebe for a day of fishing.

“I’ve got the insect repellent,” Elizabeth said, as we prepared for our day trip while still in camp. I chose not to pack any insect spray of my own but relied on my sister’s supply. Once on the trail, and loaded up with mosquito spray, we passed through the first marshy area and could see masses of mosquitoes rising up from the vegetation and hovering above each of us as we trudged down the wide trail. We thought we were protected and continued our hike … until we were forced to stop because the mosquitoes were threatening to carry us away. The repellent hadn’t worked and we were literally being eaten alive. It got so bad we were forced to stop, drive back to the Canyon General Store some 15 miles away to find some repellent that would work on the industrial-sized mosquitoes we had encountered.

Since that time I have opted for the strongest and best mosquito repellents on the market so we would never have to repeat that first adventure. And, to be certain, we’ve never repeated that experience. The problem is that most mosquito repellents are caustic, nasty, chemical-filled “insecticides” that we spray or rub right on our skin, trusting they are safe to use. Knowing that our skin absorbs most substances placed on it, I recently began reading labels and trying to find an effective repellent that would be safer to use.

“DEET,” a very effective insecticide, is the primary ingredient to many of the most popular repellents on the market today. At present, it is used in over 200 repellents. However, a study reported by Duke University claims DEET has caused brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats, and in limited military studies shows similar results in human testing. The larger issue was heavy exposure to DEET over long periods of time caused memory loss, lack of muscle control and learning and concentration issues.

The study recommends caution for anyone using products containing DEET, and recommends using them sparingly on children and not using them on infants.

This information concerned me because this time of year I use a lot of repellent when I’m fishing, golfing, doing yard work or running along the river trail. Luckily, I found a product I really like, and unlike other products I’ve tried (that don’t contain DEET) it works very well to repel mosquitoes. La Fresh, a U.S. manufacturer, produces insect repellent wipes called “Travel-Lite.” They are made using peppermint oil instead of DEET. They are only available online as of yet at www.lafreshgroup.com.

After using the “Travel-Lites” with great success (better for my skin, smelled great and actually kept mosquitoes away), I researched online and found peppermint oil repels mosquitoes with 99.8 percent effectiveness.

Start reading labels and you too may decide to go the natural route and repel mosquitoes using peppermint oil, a safer product that doesn’t contain DEET. 

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