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Is DEET Bug Spray Dangerous to My Health

You Asked: Should I Avoid DEET?

Dear Fit,
I'm going on a week-long camping and hiking trip, and my destination is bound to be infested with mosquitoes. I want to get a bug spray that really works, but I've heard the only ones you can count on contain DEET. Is this chemical really that bad for me? I really don't want to deal with tons of itchy bites and definitely don't want to catch West Nile Virus. — Doubting DEET Diana

I can understand your concern, as there has been a lot of bad talk about DEET. To find out if you should go DEET-free,

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.

Also bug sprays range in the percentage of DEET. OFF! Family Care contains seven percent, while OFF! Deep Woods contains 25 percent. So if you're a little freaked out about DEET, go for ones that have a low percentage. If you're really freaked out, you can always choose a DEET-free repellent such as Herbal Armor, but be warned that it may not protect you as well.

Join The Conversation
and851 and851 8 years
Try the Off Clip On. I usually get eaten alive by the mosquitos when I go outside, but this has really seemed to help. You just turn the unit on and clip it to your waistband. No more spraying that stuff on your skin.
mehollowell mehollowell 8 years
I don't use anything besides Deep Woods. Others don't work at all on me!
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I'm with Sham - the more toxic, the better. I actually use this stuff called Ben's that I'm pretty sure is pure Deet. Otherwise, I'm covered in bug bites and completely miserable for weeks. I swear I attract every bug within a 20 mile radius.
LittleMzFit LittleMzFit 8 years
Sham, you should really try Buzz Away. I used to react to bug bites like that too. I'd rather try it than have something on me that can melt tents! :faint:
Soniabonya Soniabonya 8 years
good advice from everyone. i never knew DEET had dangerous chemicals... i'll definetly be checking out the others listed.
HappyKate HappyKate 8 years
don't spray any repellent with DEET onto waterproof shells, coats, tents or anything of that nature as it will ruin the waterproof coating. I even knew someone who said it made holes in her tent.
sham28 sham28 8 years
I slather myself in the most toxic bug spray available. Is I try anything less than Deep Woods I am covered in welts, and it's not worth it. I have a really severe reaction to insect bites.
Leanne1078 Leanne1078 8 years
I agree about the Buzz Away, by Quantum. It is essential oil based and works great! It comes in spray, lotions, and handy towelettes that you can stick in your purse or pocket.
blackdresses88 blackdresses88 8 years
This doesn't apply to the camping trip, but Mosquito Squad is great for homes and events, and it's really safe, as opposed to sprays like Off.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
What REALLY works is pyrethin spray that you put on your clothes. You have to let the clothes dry a little bit before you wear them, but it lasts several washings and it's made from chrysanthemums. And you will not get any bugs even near's great stuff.
LittleMzFit LittleMzFit 8 years
I like Buzz Away better. I don't want to put anything on my body that has those types of chemicals. I try to eat more sulphur rich foods (onions, garlic, leeks), take my B vitamins, and stay away from sweet smelling perfumes, hair products, etc.
psterling psterling 8 years
I hear they also hate the smell of peppermint.
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 8 years
such good tips!!!! I've also heard not to eat bananas/fruits before you go outdoors as mosquitos are attracted to the sugar in your blood stream. I swear I've heard this but it could be a myth :)
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