FOR YEARS, the only scientifically proven way to ward off mosquitoes was to use an insect repellent containing the chemical compound DEET (diethyl toluamide). But, the pesticide has long been equally effective at repelling some consumers with its strong smell, greasy feel and possible side effects.
Despite official assurances that DEET is safe and effective when used as directed, some consumers have shied away from the chemical compound over concerns about reported adverse affects, such as rashes and seizures. Of particular concern to parents, the American Academy of Paediatrics discourages using repellents with DEET concentrations of 30 per cent or higher on children. In addition, the way DEET smells, feels on the skin and the damage it causes to plastics, leather and other materials have sent consumers in search of effective alternatives.
Now, the US government has given its stamp of approval to two alternatives to DEET: picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. All repellents work by creating a barrier on the skin that confuses mosquitoes and keeps them at bay. Proper application according to the label is essential for safe and effective protection.
The US government’s approval of picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus comes as West Nile virus, a potentially deadly infectious disease spread by mosquitoes, is beginning its annual upswing across North America. Most people who contract the virus show no symptoms, but about 20 per cent experience headaches, fevers and nausea. About one in 150 people fall seriously ill with symptoms that can lead to vision loss, paralysis and death.