In my previous article, you learned that deet is an effective insect repellent. But that protection comes with a price since deet can cause serious side effects if high concentrations are used.
Other problems associated with the prolonged and repeated use of deet are confusion, irritability and insomnia. A more common side effect is the development of a skin rash in people with sensitive skin. Deet can also destroy certain fabrics and is flammable.
"Although deet is safe on cotton, wool and nylon, it may damage spandex, rayon and acetate. It can dissolve plastic and vinyl, so keep it off eyeglasses or vinyl car seats, for instance. Further, you'll need to keep clothes treated with deet away from fire, " said the editors of Consumer Reports.
While adverse reactions to deet are rare, it's still a good idea to be careful. To protect yourself from insects without compromising your health, Consumer Reports said adults should use products containing 40 percent deet or less while children are better off with 20 percent or less. Here are more suggestions:
Use a low-deet repellent and apply it sparingly. Apply one milligram of repellent per square centimeter of exposed skin which is the same as using two to four tablespoons’ worth to cover an adult's arms, legs and face. If bugs don't respond to a thin film of repellent, put on a bit more.
Don't apply repellent near eyes, lips or on broken skin. (To apply a spray to your face, spray your palm, then spread the repellent carefully. )
Avoid breathing a repellent spray and don't use it near food.
Once it's not needed, wash repellent off with soap and water.
On children, use a product containing less than 20 percent deet and keep it out of their reach. Don't apply repellent to a young child's hands, which often wind up in the mouth.
Consider treating your clothes instead of your skin. But note that deet can damage spandex, rayon and acetate.
If you find deet-based insect repellents expensive, you can try a bar of soap made from citronella oil. This is a time-honored remedy which comes from an Asian grass.
But don't expect too much from this natural product for it doesn't work as well as deet-based repellents. In tests conducted by Consumer Reports, citronella failed to ward off aggressive mosquitoes for even half an hour. However, it did pretty well against stable flies.
For best results, look for a product with at least 10 percent citronella. You can also lighten up your day and repel insects with citronella candles. These are normally used outside the home. (Next: Natural ways to repel insects. )
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Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine http://www.HealthLinesNews.com