Is Your Mosquito Repellent More Harmful Than the Mosquito Itself?

best-mosquito-repellentMosquitos suck, in more ways than one. With some of them today carrying viruses like West Nile and Zika, we want to avoid them more than ever. Mosquito repellent may work for keeping those blood-sucking devils (and other nasties) off our skin, but at what cost? Is mosquito repellent harmful? Are the chemicals in them truly safe? Are there other options that are more natural and still work to keep us from doing the mosquito slapping dance? Chemical solutions and rub/spray on repellents were a revelation when they first came on the market, but are they doing as much harm as the mosquitos?


DEET has become the most used ingredient in virtually every bug repellent on the market. It goes by a few names: diethyltoluamide, N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, and N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide. It’s been around for decades. DEET definitely works to keep mosquitos away but it can have side-effects that we’ll examine in a moment.

The BIG Mistake

We rely on the FDA, USDA and EPA and to inform us of health concerns. But consider how often people don’t read directions for anything. Do you read directions for mosquito repellent? We just squirt it, spray it and rub it in without thinking until exposed skin is ‘secure’. Parents spray down their kids, pets, and themselves. Sure, we have to consider user error when examining how harmful the chemical ingredients are. When used as directed, reported issues are pretty low. But those warning labels exist for good reason… mosquito repellent can be harmful.

Will it Kill You? Probably Not, But…

mosquito-bitesThe issues associated with mosquito repellent are varied and unpleasant. For starters there’s eye irritation and allergic skin reactions. People who ingest DEET or use products with high concentrations have sometimes needed medical help. Labels tell us not to use it on infants, elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems. So, consider potential effects like:

  • skin irritation
  • breathing problems
  • eye irritation
  • insomnia
  • mood swings/disturbances
  • seizures
  • slurred speech
  • impaired cognitive function
  • nerve damage
  • coma

The concentration levels of the active chemicals determine a lot of the risk. For example, Canada banned the sale of mosquito repellents that are more than 30% DEET.

So, What Alternatives Do I Have?

Mosquitos are obnoxious creatures and you want to enjoy your time outside without having them eating you alive. Luckily, you don’t have to wear nets and cover yourself from head to toe in thick clothing. There are alternative repellents and treatments with active ingredients and delivery systems that work just as well and are far better for you. Look for these ingredients in a natural mosquito spray for your lawn and yard or in repellents for your skin:

  • Citronella oil
  • Geraniol (found in citronella)
  • Lemongrass oil
  • Garlic oil
  • Cedar oil
  • Herbal extracts and essential oils
  • Picaridin – for topical solutions

All the ingredients above help protect you from mosquitos without any adverse effects. A good rule when reading the label is: if you can’t pronounce it, beware.

A lawn and yard spray solution could be the simplest and easiest method because it keeps mosquitos away from your property. Much easier than having to slather on harmful mosquito repellent and certainly won’t cause skin problems.

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