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Jun 2, 2011

Homemade Mosquito Repellent

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It's the time of year again for us with the climates and areas that permits it. Mosquitoes are our to conquer our bodies and steal out blood. Not only are mosquito bites annoying in that they make us itch endlessly throughout the day and night, but they may carry infectious diseases such as Malaria and West Nile Virus, to name a few.

Many sprays on the market that are used to repel mosquitoes contain a harmful chemical called N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide or more commonly known as DEET.

 Video of a mosquito bite up close.




Many studies have proved and linked DEET with causing numerous health issues.
"The two recorded cases of dermal DEET exposure resulting in psychological effects involve males 27 and 30 years old. In one case the 27-year-old applied Deep Woods Off! (20% DEET) while fishing on a humid afternoon. The man experienced an altered mental state and paresthesias, which progressed to auditory hallucinations and severe agitation. He was heavily sedated when he arrived at the hospital and required mechanical ventilation. After 24 hours, his condition had improved and he was discharged after 3 days with no recurring symptoms (Hampers et al. 1999)." says the CDC.
"In another study of DEET use during pregnancy, two mothers who were sisters gave birth to two male infants within 2 weeks of each other. About 8 weeks into their pregnancies, the women went on a camping trip with their spouses. The group used large amounts of insecticides and the insect repellent Off!® to control flies and mosquitoes. Both children had heart problems which led to congestive failure and diagnoses of coarctation of the aorta. One of the boys died after 38 days, and the other survived (Hall et al. 1975). Of note is the fact that the sisters were not together during their pregnancy except during the camping trip, and that there was a family history of heart problems on the father's side of the boy who survived." says the CDC.
These are only two of MANY studies done on the harmful effects of DEET. 

DEET may cause cancer as well:

"Results of a case-control study in Sweden on subjects between the ages of 30-75 with testicular cancer were evaluated for possible risk involving occupational exposures. Those who were exposed to insect repellents containing DEET for intervals <115 days and >115 days made up two exposure groups. These groups were evaluated by multivariate analysis of exposure. A conditional odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) were used. An increased risk for testicular cancer was found for those who were exposed to insect repellents, with an OR of 2.3 (95 CI 1.2-4-4) for those exposed for =115 days (n=24 cases). The OR for those exposed <115 days (n=15 cases) was 1.2 (95% CI 0.6-2.5) (Hardell et al. 1998). These data do not necessarily suggest that long-term use of DEET could cause testicular cancer. DEET was not the only chemical substance that the volunteers were exposed to, and the authors of the study note that their findings should be "...interpreted with caution and might be chance findings. Some numbers were based on low numbers of exposed subjects" (Hardell et al.1998)."
 What to do when you don't want to use this potentially harmful chemical on your body, on your children, or near your pets and food? You can make your own mosquito repellant but first you should cut down on things that attract mosquitoes the most.

Mosquitoes are most attracted to
  • Sweet or flowery scents (perfumes and colognes)
  • Human sweat
  • Human breath. Us humans exhale CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) gas. Mosquitoes love this. 
  • Darker colored clothing.
  • Our body temperature

The following items are known to deter and prevent mosquitoes from coming within your proximity.

  1. Growing catnip in the vicinity of your home will keep mosquitoes away. You can't take this with you camping, but at least your home perimeter will be relatively mosquito free.
  2. Thyme - there is a chemical in the herb thyme called alpha-terpinene that is known to deter mosquitoes. If you can bear smelling like thyme, this is for you. 
  3. Rosemary - Another common herb, Rosemary, contains an oil that repels mosquitoes. Personally, I'd love to rub a Rosemary spray on myself. It smells delicious. 
  4. Tiki-Torches - Well maybe not the torches themselves, but the oil that burns within the torches, Citronella oil, is a powerful deterrent of mosquitoes.
  5. Cloves of garlic are known to rid of mosquitoes. Although I think garlic can rid of almost anything alive.
  6. A more practical tip is to rub peppermint oil on you. It smells delicious and keeps mosquitoes away. 
  7. Lemongrass is a potent mosquito repellent.

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