Q: We camp every summer at a place that has pretty big (and aggressive) mosquito population. Do the dangers of West Nile (and other diseases) outweigh the dangers of exposing oneself to bug spray with Deet? And what is a non-toxic alternative (and will it really work against North Carolina mosquitos!)
A: This summer my daughter went to a wilderness camp in Northern Canada (known for intense mosquito infestation) and the camp recommended I spray her and her clothing with 100% Deet. I was 100% certain I would not do that and bought an organic insect repellant I found online. It worked great.
Here’s what you need to know about Deet: Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia, Ph.D., spent 30 years researching the effects of pesticides and discovered that prolonged exposure to DEET can damage your brain cells. When rats had their skin treated with the average human dosage equivalent (40 mg/kg body weight) of DEET for 60 days, they performed far worse than control rats on physical tests requiring muscle control, strength, and coordination and had a harder time accomplishing easy tasks like walking.