Friday, February 09, 2007

DEET - repellant or repugnant?

I walked out to my car yesterday, and began to think the zealots warning of the coming apocalypse might be onto something. Insects were swarming around my car, my face, and my kids. The end of times? No, the end of spring.

Summer is in full force here at the edge of the Everglades. Our amazing fauna around our canal front house is increasing exponentially. With summer comes thick gnat storms like the one I was surrounded by yesterday, swarms of dragonflies, lovely monarch butterflies, and of course.....mosquitoes.

My mind started racing. What sort of pestilence control options did we have? Almost all mosquito repellants and bug sprays are full of unpronounceable compounds, with skull and crossbones warnings on the label. "Keep out of reach of children!" But, my children are within reach of these bugs! Visions of the movie Naked Lunch ran through my head. I didn't want my kids inhaling and absorbing these mysterious chemicals and getting a Kafkaesque high, or worse.

But here lies a major dilemma of a true paranoiac. What about the diseases these bugs can carry, and possibly inject into my children? A friend of mine had a mysterious ailment that landed her in the hospital a few years ago. Even after a barrage of tests including a spinal tap, she had no diagnosis for her unusual symptoms. Tinfoil hat firmly on my head, I insisted it was West Nile Virus, which they did not screen her for. Anorexia, headache, fever, fatigue? I knew the symptoms...The news had the first detected case a few weeks later, but I knew better.

So, what is worse? Chemical insect repellants or West Nile Virus? Are there natural repellants that work? I have heard of cinnamon and eucalyptus based ones that have been tested against DEET and work, but I don't know if they are marketed, or what would be comparable. Citronella does not cut it in these studies.

Anyone know where to find these? Do we have to stay inside all summer?

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