Liz Talks, Episode 33: Bug Safe Summer! DEET, natural repellents, and alternatives!

Is DEET dangerous? Are there alternatives that work well, without the downsides? And do “natural” bug repellents really work? Liz talks how to protect yourself safely this summer, PLUS why you shouldn’t use sunscreen with bug spray. (Yep, it’s true!) 

Liz Talks Episode 33

  • Personal updates [2:31]
  • Sunscreen updates [13:07]
  • Main topic: Bug safe summer [16:37]
  • Combining chemicals [26:00]
  • Permethrin [32:27] 
  • Summary of findings [37:59]
  • Additional bug questions [42:02]
  • Quick Overshare [46:47]

TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to Liz Talks. I’m Liz, and I’m a nutritional therapy practitioner and best-selling author; but here, I’m 0% professional and 100% mom, spouse, friend, and over-analyzer. We’re going to talk food, beauty, family, fitness, mental health, friendship, marriage, and everything in between in this season of Liz Talks, and I’m so glad you’re along for the ride.

Remember; this is a podcast about thoughts, feelings, and opinions. And I definitely do not give individual, personal, or medical advice. 

This is episode 33, topic: Bug safe summer. 

In case you missed it, last weeks’ episode 32 was an interview with Hannah and Kelty; parenting coaches and founders of the parenting community at Upbringing.co. They are awesome and it was such a good show, if I do say so myself. 

Before I begin, I want to quickly thank Arrowhead Mills for their generous sponsorship of this podcast. Next time you go to the store, I’d love to have you support a company that supports my work and look for Arrowhead Mills products. Say it with me, if you’re in the car; Arrowhead Mills products. You can also find them on Vitacost.com. Arrowhead Mills pancake mixes are all we use for our Saturday morning pancake tradition, because I tried all the options, including homemade pancake mix, and none of them were as consistently good or as easy as Arrowhead Mills. So let me know if you try it by tagging me @RealFoodLiz on Instagram.

I also want to remind you about an affiliate that I absolutely love, and that’s Vibrant Body Company. Please do not keep wearing a bra that is uncomfortable, and restrictive, and awful. Go to Www.RealFoodLiz.com/Vibrant and use code LIZ15, all caps, for 15% off. They’re amazingly comfortable. No wire. Certified clean bra. Their super soft shelfy tank, which I wear constantly, and their super comfortable underwear, including their thong, which is my favorite thong of all time. And you all know, I am team thong. So www.RealFoodLiz.com/Vibrant. I know, the show is called Liz Talks. But my website is www.RealFoodLiz.com. So www.RealFoodLiz.com/Vibrant

Even if you think you’re good with what you’ve got; and trust me, I did too. I was like all sports bras all the time. Even those really super soft ones from Lululemon. And those are nowhere near as comfortable and functional as the Vibrant Body bra. I’ve even worn in golfing in super hot weather. So I am fully converted, and I think you will be too.

  • Personal updates [2:31]

Ok, time for some personal updates. I have a link for the stem cell cream I use. I had a lot of questions about that when I mentioned it before, with absolutely no link and no way to find it. So I created a link for you all. It’s www.RealFoodLiz.com/StemCellCream. So you can try the coupon code REALFOODLIZ. I’m not sure if it will work for you {laughs}; but FYI, I pay full price. So, that’s good. So that’s that. 

Another update I wanted to offer, when we’re talking about what we’re doing this summer. The bug free summer. We’re also talking about the accident and losing child-free summer. The Xplora watch. This is something I talked about on Instagram. And I am so sad to say that I just do not recommend it. We looked really closely at Xplora and Gabb. And Gabb was out of stock at the time. But Gabb seems to be what everybody had, but it was out of stock. So I went with Xplora, because I could get it. And it had a feature of being; I guess the most water resistant, from what I could tell, of all of the options. But I will tell you the interface is really clunky. But maybe that is all of the kid watches. It’s just really hard to use. And I’ve just had nothing but problems with the sim card. They sent two sim cards, and couldn’t figure out which one worked. One of the worked, which ended up being not the one we were supposed to use. But it was hooked to our phone number. And then it’s taken several weeks to get a new sim card, and she’s already been at day camp for like 5 weeks.

I originally wanted to have my daughter a smart watch just so I could track her. because I wanted her to be able to ride her bike by herself. She’s 7. I wanted her and a couple of her friends to be able to have some independence, and ride their bikes to day camp. It’s just right around the corner, and we live in a really small community. But I wanted her to have something that made her feel like she could get in touch with me if she needed to. And this was just a total bust, and I’m really bummed about it. 

So, I might try something that a few people recommended; an Apple watch with her own Apple ID. Caroline Potter from Flourish Apothecary actually sent me a message about that. How you set up their Apple ID, and put the parental controls in. Maybe that. I don’t have an Apple watch, but I’m sure I could get an older one, and just let her wear it only during day camp, to and from. I know some of those are actually fairly waterproof. Or I might just try nothing. Because, again, we’re halfway through camp. And so far, so good.

Another personal update; recently came back from a trip to Longboat Key in Florida. Which; it’s close to Anna Maria; the Anna Maria Island, Anna Maria city. And it was really great. We hit up Jennie and Janie’s, which is my favorite restaurant in the city of Anna Maria on Anna Maria Island. It’s so good. I mean, I’m a breakfast burrito freak and their breakfast burrito is incredible.

And, oh my gosh; what is it called? Crème brûlée French toast. Un-freaking-believable. Worth flying in just for that. 

So we did that. We also did Sarasota Children’s Garden, which was darling. My friend Alaena from Grazed and Enthused recommended that, and it was such a magical place for kids. It’s like the place that I wish existed for me to homeschool my kids in. It was just lovely. 

And I wanted to hop in with a couple of recommendations that made our travel days and our travel nights much easier. First of all, some must haves for healthy travel. Nose spray. And I forget this a lot. But we used nasal spray; especially in these challenging times, to sort of hopefully flush out any viruses or any stuff that has gotten up into our noses during travel. And you can get like iodine nasal spray. There’s a limit to how often and how much of something like that you can use. But for adults, there’s iodine nasal spray. There’s also, something interesting. Carrageenan was actually studied for its ability to deactivate COVID. I don’t know; now I’m going to have a COVID warning on this podcast. But there were some early studies are carrageenan being able to basically deactivate, I guess or prevent, COVID. But I don’t know the status of that research. 

However, carrageenan kind of have those anti-viral properties just in general. So I had ordered a ton of carrageenan nasal spray from Australia. It’s really funny, you couldn’t get it in the US. But it was actually just marketed as a general anti-viral type of spray for frequent travelers, and it was called Flo, I believe. But after a while, I think that sort of caught on during COVID times, and they stopped exporting it, or they stopped sending it to the United States. So I don’t know if it’s still getable in the US. 

But we’ve tried iodine nasal spray. We’ve tried the carrageenan nasal spray, which you can use a little bit more frequently. And for kids, just basic saline nasal spray works really, really well. If they will let you put that up their nose, or if they’ll do it for themselves. It’s a really good basic, just kind of intuitive way, to sort of prevent bringing home anything from your travels. 

Now, other than that, let’s see; some of my favorite tips. We used the slumber pod. If you have a kiddo that needs a pack and play, or just a dark place to sleep, and they’re small enough to fit in here, the slumber pod was amazing. When we were in Florida, we were sharing a house with our entire one-kind of wing of the family. And we had a really nice large room, but we were all in it. So my husband, myself, and our two daughters. And it’s pretty easy to just set the 7-year-old up on the floor. But the 2-year-old still needs full darkness. White noise. All of that stuff. 

So the slumber pod actually packs up; it’s like a little mini tent, but it’s made out of a softer fabric with enough circulation that they’re safe in there. And it packs up really small, so you can actually pack it in your checked luggage. It’s super simple. So we used the guava family lotus travel crib, which we love. It’s super easy, and it packs up really small. And then we use the slumber pod over it. And she, the 2-year-old, slept great. It was not a problem at all. We popped her white noise machine in there. And even when we were kind of moving around the room, stuff like that, after she had gone to bed, she still stayed asleep.

And she’s gotten so used to it that at this point, we can just zip her right in. No problem. It is a little awkward, as they get bigger, to get them in and out. That’s something that’s a little bit of a challenge. It would be nice if the lotus travel crib had some kind of something like that that would work the same way, that you didn’t have to actually put them in through the opening and then down into the pack and play. Rather, if you were able to unzip that side entrance in the lotus travel crib, and then unzip a little side entrance in the slumber pod, and kind of put them in easily that way. That would make it much, much easier. But it’s not so difficult that it’s not usable on a trip like that. So the slumber pod was great. 

And I also wanted to just sing the praises of something that you’ve probably heard of before, but maybe aren’t using yet, because that was certainly the case for me. I’ve heard a million people talk about LMNT (element) electrolyte packs. And I was like; ok. I usually use liquid IV or I use something else. It sounds really cool, I totally buy into this idea that we need a lot more salt. But in my head, I was always thinking; you know, you actually need glucose to get the salt where it needs to go, yadda-yadda-yadda.

My belief now is that there are other ways your body recruits the glucose and uses glucose to move salt into the cells where it needs to go. And there is some magic about LMNT. I had a headache for two days traveling to Florida. 100% related to travel dehydration and then, you know, you’re dehydrated from traveling and then you get to a super, super hot place and you’re outside for hours at a time. And it’s just compounded. And I was so dehydrated, but I was determined not to take any medication for the headache. And I’m a wuss when it comes to headaches. I cannot handle even the slightest headache. So I was like, really suffering for a couple of days.

Finally, I was like; I’m just going to pound, over the course of the day, I’m going to do two LMNT packs. One in the morning, one in the evening. And within a few hours of doing the first LMNT electrolyte pack; which is really heavy in salt. No added sugar. I started to feel better. And it had been two days; I was starting to get a little bit concerned. But within hours of that, I started to feel better. And I was 100% after the second pack and a good nights’ sleep.

So, this LMNT had some kind of rehydration magic going on, and I just became a full on believer. So, of course, I signed up to be an affiliate with them, and I’m really excited about it. So I cannot recommend LMNT enough. You can go to www.RealFoodLiz.com/LMNT. It’s like the word element, but without the “e”. And we do the citrus salt, but they have some cool flavors like lemon habanero; if you’re feisty. And if you use my link, if you go to www.RealFoodLiz.com/LMNT, you will get a free LMNT sample pack. That’s one packet of every flavor to try with any purchase. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a first time customer or a returning customer. You get that deal. And you don’t have to enter any codes or anything. Just navigate to the website by typing in www.RealFoodLiz.com/LMNT. And I cannot recommend highly enough that you take those with you anytime you are traveling.

The other couple of recommendations I have for travel are really simple. Bring some magnesium lotion for relaxing at the end of the day, and end every day with a hot shower or bath. Not hot; warm enough. Because really, that is the only thing for me that really activates my relaxation response. Travel just keys me up like crazy. And even if I’m exhausted at the end of the day, I will still hop in the shower and relax with warm water and then put on magnesium lotion. Because that is what enables me to relax, have a good nights’ sleep, and do it all again the next day. 

  • Sunscreen updates [13:07]

Alright, getting onto the main topics. FYI, I’m going to expand even more on sunscreen, thanks to the response I’ve gotten from my sunscreen podcast. The timing might not be perfect, because it’s going to take some time to put together a show that delves even deeper into skin types and the European sunscreens; which I shared about in my Instagram stories. And which also elicited a huge response from folks. 

I don’t want to talk too much about it here, because I feel like I’m going to leave you, like, really hungry for more information. And it’s probably going to be weeks before I can even get around to this. But, as I said in my sunscreen podcast previously, the innovation for sunscreen in the United States is completely stymied by the FDA. The regulatory process just completely stifles any kind of innovation. But European sunscreens have been able to innovate new sun protection chemicals. Yes, chemicals. Chemicals aren’t always bad. That really come about as close to spectral homeostasis; which I talked about in the sunscreen podcast. Go listen to it. 

As close to spectral homeostasis as you can really get. And they are really, really great sunscreens. They’re just not available here. You kind of have to know somebody to send you one. 

So by the way; if anybody out there wants to reach out to me that lives in Europe and wants to send me some of these really awesome euro sunscreens, I can tell you exactly what I need. 

But where that becomes necessary; I mean, I talked about clothing, or zinc sunscreen. Which is kind of sweeping the United States now, since a lot of the old sunscreen chemicals are kind of being demonized right now; and with good reason. But also because the innovation is so stifled by our regulatory process that really zinc is the only tool that seems like we’ve got to innovate with. But these euro sunscreens are so good. 

And where this comes in is like; if you think about the day I had today. I went out and I played 18 holes of golf. It was great; but I got to a point where I was just sweating off all the zinc sunscreen. I looked ridiculous because I was smearing this white sheet of zinc sunscreen all over my arms. And I was just not loving it. 

And I just thought to myself; you know, it would be really nice if I had something that is really formulated to stick, to stay on, to be sheer, and to block these UV rays that are inevitably going to burn me anyways because I’m not going in from the sun. It’s too hot. It would be unbelievably uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for me to put on long sleeves. It’s not like I’m jumping in the water and cooling off. And I was just having all these thoughts like; man. This is a situation where I’m going to be in the sun. There’s nothing I can do about it. It would be really nice to have a euro sunscreen that I could put on to be a really reliable filter that didn’t look completely ridiculous.

So as with many things, context, nuance, if this-then that type of thing. 

So I’ll talk more about that stuff in another podcast. A future podcast. And I’m also going to talk about the skin types, and their vulnerability to damage. I kind of painted a broad brush in the last one; which is funny to say, because I went into such detail. But I’m actually really excited to delve into this more. I had several people reach out to me on Instagram about the euro sunscreens; and actually someone reached out who was really, really talking my nerd language about skin types, DNA damage, and vulnerabilities and stuff like that. So I think it’s worth covering. Hopefully I get to it before sunscreen season is over. {laughs} 

And you know; I called this podcast a bug safe summer. We’re already halfway through summer; I’m so sorry. But here it is, and hopefully it’s helpful to you now.

  • Main topic: Bug safe summer [16:37]

Ok. Here’s our main topic here today. Bug spray and the bug safe summer. So the question that came in originally was really simple; is DEET really bad? And I wanted to expand on this and talk about the more standard non-“natural” bug sprays; like DEET and permethrin and picaridin. And also talk about some so-called natural options, like my favorite, which is cedarcide. 

And I’m going to start with all of this by telling you my bent; my bias. Many of you have heard this story, where I was obsessed with only natural stuff. Therapeutic grade, so-called, essential oils with my first daughter. And she had this horrible diaper rash that I kept using essential oils on, because I just thought that was the best way to go. And it just kept getting worse. And I came to realize, through this really random accident where I accidentally let a drop of lavender, which we usually think as this super gentle, totally safe oil. It’s in all the baby products. I accidentally got a drop of lavender in her belly button. I know this is just a really wacky story. And it ended up inflaming her belly button like crazy. And it clicked. Her diaper area; she’s reacting to the lavender essential oil.

So with that, and also with realizing the benefit to more science-y stuff; like purified, standardized chemicals. And I’ve talked about this in skincare. Is that you don’t have to have the same variability and constituents with chemicals as you might have with so-called natural things, like essential oils. Which, yes, I know. All things are chemicals. But you know what I mean. 

Chemicals like lab-synthesized stuff can be standardized. Can be studied in great detail. Whereas the more natural stuff, like essential oils. Which are extremely concentrated with active compounds. We can reasonably expect those constituents to really vary based on season, climate, moisture, soil, etc. 

So in some ways, natural stuff can be like a bit of a wild card. And for those who think that’s hyperbole; maybe we can at least agree that the natural stuff can still cause reactions. So it’s not perfect either. 

So one of the papers I’m going to cite here today said, “The automatic assumption that botanical repellants are safer than DEET,” and this is referring to all of the bug sprays based around essential oils and other plant constituents. “The automatic assumption that botanical repellants are safer than DEET is the appeal to nature fallacy. Which also drives most of the market for natural repellants. Yet, natural repellants have side effects.” And this paper is entitled, Who is afraid of DEET? Fear-mongering in papers on botanical repellants.

And to be honest, it’s true. The appeal to nature; as in, just because it’s natural means it better. Is a fallacy. The same way appeal to authority. As in, a scientist said it so it must be true. That is a fallacy. It’s a flawed way to reason. But, that doesn’t mean it’s always false. 

I also want to note that I know many people who have had reactions to things; vaccines, biologics, topicals, that are not recognized in the scientific literature and not acknowledged by major scientific organizations. And it may be that what I’m about to say is like giving too much of a pass to the more chemically stuff; I don’t know. But I want to acknowledge; I don’t think it’s conspiratorial to acknowledge that there are reactions that are not documented. Or that are not acknowledged, and thus not documented properly.

But in general, and this podcast, I’m relying on what does appear in the scientific literature. So, you can take that with as many grains of salt as you like. As usual. I had Amanda Torres, my researcher, work up a little dossier for me on this. But again, this is what it is in the literature. So this is what we can tell from the science. But again, I love the combination of common sense, scientific research, and just life experience. So hopefully I’m combining a couple of those here. But for the next portion of this podcast, I’m going to lean pretty heavily on the scientific literature. 

So, let’s start with DEET. The original question. DEET is a cholinesterase inhibitor. I always want to say “cholin-A-sterase” inhibitor. Which means it can block the normal breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. And this is how it could theoretically cause nervous system issues or toxicity that we hear about in blog posts and in certain online publications.

But, I came across a really street level article about this in Discover magazine called Science, Journalism, and Bug Spray. And it actually did a really good breakdown, and helped outline why the levels of DEET that we are exposed to through intermittent use of bug spray is just orders of magnitude too low to make this a big concern. To make DEET a big concern. Especially for people in areas where things like malaria and yellow fever or dengue are a real problem. 

So you can Google that if you want to really bring this down to street level, and have something to actually read. Discover magazine, and the article is Science, Journalism, and Bug Spray. 

So, this question about DEET; we start out on the wrong foot. Because DEET, first of all, sounds so much like DDT. Which is truly toxic, so there’s that. But DEET itself actually has a long history of use. And the safety record isn’t bad. As far as the side effects; Amanda pulled a paper entitled Assessment of Methods Used to Determine the Safety of the Topical Insect Repellant N, N-Diethyl-m-toluamide. (And that’s DEET). 

This is really interesting to me. There have been 14; one-four. 14 reported cases over 70 years of DEET use of severe DEET side effects. Including encephalopathy; so that’s no small thing, in very young kids. But, there are very few super strong ties that prove causality. 

Now, if there were more reported cases, we would probably be able to establish some kind of causality or some kind of connection. But with 14 reported cases over 70 years, that becomes really, really difficult. 

Again; note that doesn’t mean there is not causality, as I said before. People’s reactions to chemicals are dismissed all the time as unrelated. And there may be some industry influence there. DEET is big business. But this is what the published literature on it says. 

Now, I thought this was kind of; not funny. It’s awful. But one of the reports mentioned in the literature involved literal, like direct inhalation of a bug bomb, that was 98% DEET. So that’s clearly going to cause problems. 

To quote directly from the paper, “Even when allowing for a large factor of under reporting.” So they actually did build in a pretty decent factor of under reporting. Which means they assumed that they were not getting all of the adverse events. They were not being reported. “The incidence of 14 reported cases of DEET associated encephalopathy since 1957 is small when considered against the context of an estimated 200 million applications of DEET world-wide each year. Some individuals can develop allergic responses to DEET, which result in serious reactions through even small exposures.” 

Now, I have a bit of a problem with this. Because as anyone who has been harmed by a chemical knows; it doesn’t matter what the chances of something are when you become the exception. So I have compassion for that. 

At the same time, I think that this safety profile probably stands up to many other substances. And perhaps even the risk of getting bitten by a disease carrying insect; especially if that disease is yellow fever. 

So here’s another thing that I thought was really interesting. The EWG, which is not perfect, but it is useful. The EWG gives DEET a 5. Which looks bad. But when you look at the category breakdown, it actually gives it a green light/low risk in cancer, allergies and immunotoxicity, developmental and; this is a terrible word. Reingredientive toxicity. And then a yellow/5 in use restrictions. Because it’s not safe for use in cosmetics. Maybe because; and I’m completely pulling this out of my tush here. But maybe because, like with sunscreen, which we’ll talk about in a moment. Cosmetics, by nature, might be prone to enhancing skin penetration of DEET, which, as I’ll talk about in a little bit, can totally change the toxicity profile. 

So; one of the things I’m going to talk about later is sunscreen plus DEET together, which is a complete no-no. And you’ll understand more what I’m talking about.

  • Combining chemicals [26:00]

So now it’s time to talk about how different substances used together can compound the negative effects. So the paper also stated, and this was illuminating for me. That “illness reported by service personnel returning from the Gulf War have been linked to synergistic effects of DEET used alongside permethrin”; which I’ll talk about. It’s an insecticide that’s actually impregnated into clothing. That’s how you use it. “And pyridostigmine bromide, a prophylactic agent against the effects of nerve gas.” That’s the end of that quote. 

And this is absolutely awful. And in some ways also encouraging. Because this type of combined exposure is extremely unlikely, and easily controlled. That said, the combination of permethrin and DEET; again, permethrin being more common, obviously, than nerve gas. What we were talking about before; these really awful effects are from the combination of DEET, permethrin, and nerve gas. But just for everyday use; we actually have some DEET stuff in our garage, and some permethrin in our garage that I used on our clothing when we were actually going through the woods during tick season. 

So the combination of DEET and permethrin together; the combination of DEET, permethrin, and nerve gas is completely toxic. The combination of DEET and permethrin is not great. It’s much more likely to cause problems and absolutely should, 100%, be avoided. So don’t impregnate your clothing with permethrin, and then spray DEET over it. Don’t get permethrin on your skin, which I don’t think you’re supposed to, anyway. It’s for your clothing. And then spray DEET on top. Just keep them completely separate always. 

And unfortunately, the study that said that did not have a mechanism for the compounding of toxicity. They don’t know why that happens. They just know it does. So again, first of all avoid the combination of nerve gas, DEET, and permethrin. But for sure avoid the more common potential combination of permethrin and DEET. 

Now, all that context out there, here’s what I think about DEET. And it’s the same conclusion Amanda came to. DEET is probably safe for mosquito and tick bite protection. Especially in situations where you’re really going to be in tick territory, or needing to be safe from diseases like yellow fever, malaria, or dengue. It has a decent safety profile. 

I do not mess with ticks. So if I was going camping in the wilderness, or for a long walk in the woods, I would probably opt for DEET or permethrin. And that’s permethrin coated clothing, which I’ll talk about in a moment. Obviously, I would not use them together. I would ideally be wearing clothing that I could spray the DEET on, just to be super cautious. But obviously, in the summer that’s not always going to be the case. So in that case, I’d probably just spray it on my skin, and make sure to bathe before going to bed. 

But I will say, I’m not walking through heavy underbrush on a normal basis. So my normal, everyday tick repellant, for walks or for playing in the yard would be cedarcide. Which is more “natural”. It’s just red cedar oil. And I think a good way to change it up; change my exposures up, if I’m going to use DEET now and then, I’m going to try and use something different that works just as well in other situations. I just think it’s always good to sort of use different things so you’re not constantly using one chemical. Especially during the summer when you’re needing to protect yourself more frequently. 

Now, here’s something really important. You should not use; DEET especially, but likely any insect repellent if you’re also going to use sunscreen. So you should not layer them. So at the very least, it’s recommended that if you need to use both, you put sunscreen on first, and then your repellent. Even the FDA and CDC are really specific about this. And this is actually funny because both our pediatrician and Amanda, my researcher, emailed me about this on the same day. And I had never heard it before.

And the deal is; sunscreen ingredients probably increase the penetration of chemicals in repellant; and even more so if you’re using sunscreen properly. So if you’re reapplying every few hours, there’s no way to not end up eventually layering your sunscreen over the bug spray. So it stands to reason that while this is more of an issue with DEET, you could also bake in those essential oils you’re using too. So just don’t layer the two.

And this has inspired me to kind of look differently at our zinc based combination. It’s a zinc sunscreen combined with some bug repellent essential oils. I think it’s probably ok; but very specifically with DEET. Do not use those together. Sunscreen and DEET. And I’ll read exactly what our pediatrician sent me here in a second. It’s really interesting. 

So in that case, you would spray bug spray on your clothes, and then put sunscreen on your exposed skin. Or you could also use one of the alternatives for bug spray; like if you like the natural stuff best, you could use what I’ll talk about in a second, which are the stickers and the bracelets. The essential oil infused bracelets. Which never worked that well for us, but I know people that do swear by them. 

So again, the question was about DEET; but I will also point out something that I could have just pointed out from the very beginning. Picaridin, which is a newer repellent. Newer as in; newer than DEET. But it was actually first synthesized in the 1980s. It replicates, I guess synthetically, a compound in black pepper. And picaridin actually seems to last longer, repel more arthropods than DEET, and unlike DEET it won’t dissolve plastic or synthetic fibers. So that’s great. And it’s odorless. That’s another big, big bonus.

So I would Google picaridin. Google picaridin fact sheet to learn a little bit more about it. But note that Google search tends to bring up permethrin and picaridin together; I don’t know why. Because they’re not the same. Maybe a permethrin product will also use picaridin simultaneously. But you can get just picaridin. And look for that to learn a little bit more about it. It seems like a really, really good alternative to DEET. 

  • Permethrin [32:27] 

So let me now talk about permethrin, which I keep promising to talk about. It’s in a product called sawyer. And you basically spray it all over your clothes. That’s what I mean by impregnate your clothing. let the clothes dry, and then the clothing are basically embedded with insect killer. And it lasts through quite a few washes. And I used it at a time when I was just so; we were out at the farm. I was so terrified and paranoid of all the ticks that were out there. I was like; I’m not even leaving the house unless I am in tick clothing.

And also; I have no idea if this actually worked or not. But I was so; you guys. It was an adjustment to live on a farm. I was excited to do all the work with the animals and the plants and all of that. But I did not think about the ticks. And we had so many ticks outside, and brown recluses inside. It was tough.

But I had this genius idea when I saw that this sawyer permethrin spray; you sprayed it on fabric. So I ended up buying some tape; like fabric tape, and putting it around certain doorways where, I’m not even kidding you, the ticks would climb up the doorways. Right where they would maybe sense these human pheromones. The ticks would climb up the doorways. And they would quest; is basically standing there with their front legs out hoping that a human or an animal would brush by that they could latch on to. Isn’t that awful? 

So when I found out about that, I would soak this fabric tape in permethrin and put it up around our doorways. And I have no idea if it worked or not. But you guys; I was not in my right mind at that moment. It was not my best moment of calm, or transcendence for the situation. 

But, I thought it was an interesting thing. And I was thinking; gosh. I don’t want to spray the more intense chemicals on my body. Maybe I can just put them on my clothing and they won’t have a chance to potentially get into my system. 

And you know; I think that’s a legitimate train of thought. But at the same time, I do know that the permethrin is very toxic to fish. And I imagine you would inevitably have some run off from spraying. While I’m not entirely sure, I know some pyrethroids are considered; they actually end up binding to elements in the soil. So it may be there is no runoff from something like that, depending on where you use it. 

But that toxicity profile in the environment kind of gives me a little bit of pause. So, while it works extremely well, it’s probably best only in certain high risk situations. So maybe you and your kids really like to go; maybe you live in Lyme country where there’s a lot of Lyme disease. But you love to go for hikes in the woods, you’re super outdoorsy. One of the things you could do is potentially use permethrin spray on your pants, if you’re going to make sure your whole body is covered. Kind of like ankles, all the way to the wrists and your neck as well. 

But again; the downside to that is that you cannot mix permethrin and DEET. So if you do have exposed skin, then you might end up wanting to use DEET altogether and just spray DEET on your clothing and on your exposed skin.

So this is all good information for folks who really just want an easy option. Or like a really foolproof effective option, because these chemicals are very effective. Or if you just don’t want to use essential oils or burn citronella. But what about folks who do want to use more natural stuff? 

So one idea that came into me through Instagram was; I loved just the simplicity of this. If you’re in your yard or patio, just use a nice fan. The breeze should deter mosquitos from landing on you. And I love that. And I think that’s great when you maybe have a little bitty one with you that you don’t want to put anything on. And I actually have a story about a bug bite situation that we had. And our pediatrician, ironically, who has also already been mentioned in this podcast.

I really also love the idea of these bug bite patches that folks sent over to me that you just stick on your clothing. So I think we’ll try those, for sure. There are also bracelets infused with repellant essential oils, which is what we used to use when my first was little. They’re infused with lemongrass, rosemary, probably peppermint. I don’t remember.

Another brand that was also recommended to me was Murphy’s naturals. Murphy’s has a mosquito stick where you don’t have to get anything on your hands. Which is nice. You kind of apply the repellant like a stick.

There are truly a million essential oil type blends. And yes, I think they work. But not always for everyone or in all scenarios. But I do think they’re worth a try. But just keep in mind my lavender story, and maybe lean towards the bracelets and the stickers if you’re sensitive, or suspect a sensitivity in your children.

And I still think, as with the synthetic chemicals; the DEET, things like that. Bathe at the end of the day. Because while essential oils are “natural”, they can also be irritating with prolonged use. And they get everything else smelly. And the carrier oils are oily. So I think no matter what, if you’re stinked up or lathered up in anything at the end of the day, just get in the shower and use, I don’t know, like a charcoal soap. I still use my Beautycounter charcoal soap all the time for stuff like this. So I think that’s probably the overarching theme across whatever kind of bug spray you’re using; just get it off you by the end of the day. 

  • Summary of findings [37:59]

So, here’s my thought. I’m going to gather it all up for you. Use DEET or permethrin clothing. Not together. DEET, or permethrin clothing, when you’re in high risk situations like walking through thick underbrush or tick infested areas or like areas where mosquito born disease is common. But also consider picaridin, which should be just as effective as DEET with not so many of the downsides. This might be a better compromise for you, if you don’t want to use the more natural stuff. If you don’t necessarily trust it, but are still unsure about DEET or permethrin. I’m definitely going to try picaridin. I actually hadn’t even heard of that before this podcast. I’d kind of been suffering around with; I usually use cedarcide, which is great. Don’t always want to smell like, cedar, though. So I’ve gotten my share of bug bites over the course of the summer. But I’m excited to try picaridin.

You can also try essential oil patches or infused bracelets on kids; especially in lower risk situations. Or a spray, if it works for you. Again, in lower risk situations. I haven’t had success repelling ticks with essential oils, and I’ve tried everything. So my favorite natural type repellant, for ticks especially, is cedarcide. I’ve been recommending that for years. They have something called tick shield, which has just performed fabulously for us. And just as with the others, you shower it off at the end of the day.

So here’s what our pediatrician said. So let’s drill down to this, finally. I think she put it so amazingly well. “Number one, use products with the lowest effective concentration of repellent for the level of risk situation.” So playing in a backyard with a mowed lawn without bodies of water nearby where mosquitos would hatch may just need lemon eucalyptus oil. Like a repellant based on lemon eucalyptus. And there’s a company around Kansas City called Mindfully Made for You, and they’re just wonderful. You can order their bug spray. Whereas hiking in thick woods, as I mentioned, may need a stronger chemical based repellent. Every situation has a benefit/risk ratio. 

Number two, use chemical based insect repellents in lotion, pump, or towelette form instead of an aerosol spray in a pressurized container to decrease inhaling chemical particles from the aerosol. Try new repellents on a small patch of exposed skin before you apply all over. And that goes especially for kids. 

Number three; don’t use insect repellent mixed with sunscreen. If you reapply the sunscreen every two hours as advised, you will overexposure yourself to the active ingredients in the repellant. 

Ok, so that’s what our pediatrician said. And if you still get bit, the Instagram crowd seems to love the bug bite thing. I actually have one of those; don’t use it enough, clearly. But this is like this little suction sucker thing that I wish I invented that is supposed to really help if you do get bitten. It physically pulls, I think, venom and whatever is irritating your bite right out. Either that or it increases circulation to the area. And people just swear by it. 

Now, if a tick gets you, do not burn it, do not rub Vaseline on it, or do anything other than pull it out firmly with tweezers or something like a tick key or tick scoop. I think you can order stuff like that on Amazon. They work much like tweezers, but sometimes they make it a little bit easier if you don’t feel like you’re great at gripping the tick with pointed tweezers. You can use a tick key or ticked off, I think, is the other brand that we’ve used. 

So any tips or tricks to get ticks out without having to do what I just said actually risks having the tick literally vomit the contents of it’s insides into your body, which dramatically raises your risk for tick-borne disease. So all those little old wives’ tales on the internet; like rubbing Vaseline on it to make it back out on it’s own. Or putting a match up to it’s butt so it backs out on it’s own. Anything you do to “make a tick back out on it’s own” is just a complete no-no. Don’t do it. Only use pulling it out firmly with tweezers from the base or use something like a tick key or the ticked off dealy-bob. Which is a technical term. Dealy-bob. 

  • Additional bug questions [42:02]

And one other question that came in; well, there’s a couple. But another question that came in that I thought was interesting about mosquitos was, “Does blood type have anything to do with how much mosquitos like you?” And actually there is. There is truth to this idea that certain blood types are more prone to being bitten by mosquitos. So they’re most attracted to type O. And this was actually studied as recently as 2019. I have no clue as to the quality of this study, but I do know it was studied. So it seems to have some basis in truth, which is terrible. {laughs} 

Alright. There were a couple of other auxiliary questions. The first one was yard spray for mosquitos? And I read, just with a brief online search; I’m sorry that I didn’t really attack this portion of the question. But I’m telling you; this podcast is wonderful. I adore podcasting. But I just spent three hours just putting together the flow of this podcast with the information and research that I did separately. So this stuff takes forever. And I had forgotten. I did podcast for many years, but my podcast partner, Diane, did most of the work in accumulating questions and creating documents and stuff like that. So it is work. But I do hope to tackle this in more complete detail at some point. So I apologize. I was just getting to the point where I was going to get myself in trouble, and I haven’t seen my kids all day {laughs}. So I kind of stopped here and just did a cursory Google search about mosquito yard spray. 

So my brief online search basically said that sometimes organophosphates are used; which I believe are not good at all. But some companies do seem to use pyrethroids. So permethrin, I think; pyrethroids are some derivative of permethrin. And what companies will tell you is they are derived from marigolds, so they replicate a compound in marigolds, which is repellent for pests. 

And I do think these might be ok; I mean, obviously they’re ok for humans in some respects, because you can spray them on your clothes and use them as a repellent. And mostly ok for humans and mammals. But they are, again, super toxic to fish. Which does give me pause. But I live at a lake.

Really; if you’re getting eaten alive, I would probably first try picaridin topically or on my clothing. But if they’re just getting you on any exposed area all the time, then maybe a pyrethroid based yard spray. But I really don’t know enough about that.

And as for our furry friends; dogs in particular. Which is a big question that I got. I have to say, I’ve been disappointed in my experiences with holistic vets. Because our holistic vet, “holistic”, recommended the Seresto collar to us a long, long time ago. And I get it. I think what she was trying to do was recommend something that didn’t have to actually go on the dog’s skin. But now these collars are being recalled. So I was really upset about that. I kind of didn’t question. And we did it. And then we ended up doing the conventional flea and tick during the part of the year when ticks are really bad. And I don’t know whether that was the right call or not. It’s just so hard when you’re already trying to figure so many other things out for your human babies, and then you’ve got to figure it out for your canine babies. But it’s the call we made, and we’ve got to live with it. 

I do think that stuff is probably pretty bad; the stuff you get from the vet. The Seresto collars, obviously, because they’ve been recalled. But one of our dogs would just have the worst skin reactions from cedarcide. She was just a sensitive puppy all around. So that wasn’t going to work. And she was literally; I shouldn’t say was. But I’m just talking about when we were using cedarcide on her. And she’s literally the same color as a tick, so finding them on her is just impossible. So honestly, I just don’t know what to do for animals. We really, after a while, weren’t doing much at all. We tried doing cedarcide; we kind of bounced around.

So if anyone has any ideas or any knowledge on this that’s not; you know, I want to know what the research says. I want to know what people do that works. But I also want to avoid the more fear-mongering stuff. So just be aware of that. I don’t want nature is good, pharmaceuticals are poison dot com article that says you’re killing your dog by using flea and tick medication. {laughs} Let’s talk about proposed mechanisms. Let’s talk about why one thing might not be great and what the options might be. 

So reach out to me if you have any ideas. 

  • Quick Overshare [46:47]

Ok. I’m going to do a quick overshare. This involves bugs and our pediatrician, both of which have already been mentioned in the podcast. So when our little one; our second daughter, was really, really tiny. just in her first couple of months of life earthside. We would take her outside and just let her be naked in the great outdoors. {laughs} She would just relax, and sleep. And just be nakey for a while. And at some point, some kind of biting bug got in the fold between her; like the fold of her hip. And it got really, really inflamed. There were two little spots. And we started to become a little concerned about it. It just looked really red and really angry, and she was just so little. 

So, we use a home visit pediatrician. And she is amazing. She’s got a waiting list a mile long. I’m so, so grateful that we found her really early on, because she’s just absolutely phenomenal. So she came over to take a look at it. And it’s so great; everybody felt so comfortable because it’s in our home. Everybody’s good. Everybody is just feeling loose, and just feeling good. And baby is no exception.

So, even though she’s getting checked out by a doctor, she’s pretty calm. She’s pretty chill; not stressed out at all. So again, this is in the fold of her hip; right up in the front. So pediatrician is looking at it, assessing it, and figuring out a course of action. And while all of that is going on, we’re sitting in a chair. Pediatrician is kind of kneeling down in front of us so she can get a good look at it. And I’m sure you know exactly where this is going. But baby projectile poops her brand new baby poop all over our wonderful pediatrician and her white coat and all over everything. And it was so embarrassing. And so funny. And she was so gracious about it.

She was like; look. I would not have become a pediatrician if I didn’t know I was going to get pooped on a couple of times. A day. It was just such a moment. Because I was like; oh my gosh, I’m so sorry! She’s just on the floor with poop all over her jacket. And everything ended up fine, but I have certainly never forgotten that moment. 

Alright. That’s it for episode 33. A big thank you to Arrowhead Mills for making this episode possible. And remember, you can ask me anything by sending me a DM @RealFoodLIz on Instagram. But the best way to ask is to go to www.RealFoodLiz.com/AskLiz. That way, your questions won’t get lost in my inbox. 

I appreciate you! I’ll see you next week. 

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