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Bug Spray Dilemma: Is DEET Really That Bad?

As soon as I set foot in the woods, mosquitoes flock to me. If you too become a feeding ground for these buggers, I'm sure you're looking for a powerful bug spray that will keep you from getting bit. Many sprays contain the chemical DEET, which I'm sure you've heard can be harmful to humans. The EPA says that if used as directed, bug sprays containing DEET are not harmful to us, although long-term exposure is. When you spray it on your skin, it gets absorbed and eventually enters the bloodstream. It pumps through your nervous system and has been proven to kill brain cells, causing neurological damage. If you have heavy exposure to DEET, you may experience memory loss, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and shortness of breath. Mosquito bites aren't looking so bad now, huh?

DEET could be considered a poison, but the EPA feels that small doses are OK for us. So if you're using a product containing DEET, follow the directions on the bottle. Don't over-apply, and as soon as you go inside, wash your skin off with soap and water.

Does DEET freak you out? To see your other options


Look for insect repellents that are DEET-free. The ingredient Picardin, is found in many new bug sprays, especially ones geared towards kids, and is found to be just as effective as those containing DEET. It's only recommended to apply this type of repellent twice a day though, so this makes me wonder how safe it is.

You may want to check out natural alternatives, like one called Herbal Armor. It's made with six essential oils including citronella, lemongrass, and geranium. It works for up to four hours, and it smells pretty good. If you're against citronella because you don't want to smell like a candle, you can try Crocodile Natural Insect Repellent. It's made with organically grown herbs. I speak from experience when I say that these all natural bug repellents don't work as well as those that contain DEET, but at least you'll feel good knowing they're not harmful to your health.

Fit's Tips: Some sunscreens contain DEET, so check your bottles.

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