When I was in high school, my uncle G contracted the West Nile Virus from a seemingly innocuous mosquito bite. He was infected during a peak season for West Nile - Indiana, my home state, reported nearly 300 incidences that year. In comparison, Hoosiers reported a mere eighteen cases in 2016. Unfortunately, my uncle was very seriously ill from the virus - he ended up in the hospital with cerebral edema and encephalopathy. His organs began to shut down, and he ended up on dialysis for the remainder of his life. As a result of this virus, he passed away years before he should have - and his health was severely compromised in those last few years.
So - all that to say: I take bug bites very seriously. All things in life are a balance, right? I don't want to kill honeybees - but I also don't want to end up with Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, or some other horrible bug-borne pathogen. The monetary and environmental cost of treating me for any of those diseases probably outweighs the cost of me - one person - using the hardcore repellent that can harm other insects, too. According to my biology major brother-in-law, biting insects are attracted to people at different intensities based in part of the person's genetics. That makes sense to me - I'm used to getting eaten alive while my friends escape with nary a bite. And that also makes me worry for my little ones, too.
Here's my plea - if you are a lucky person who doesn't attract bugs like I do, please use natural repellents!!! Lemon Eucalyptus, Lemongrass, and Peppermint essential oils have all proven to be effective for many. These repellents do nothing for me. Last night, I spent the night on the deck with several friends. We burned citronella tiki torches and slathered on a natural bug spray. I sprayed myself down probably once every 90 minutes or so - and I still got about FIFTEEN mosquito bites. No one else got bit nearly as many times, and we all used the same repellent. I've learned my lesson - I need the real hardcore stuff. DEET is my friend, but it *does* have environmental impacts that I don't love.
The good news is that Rory is finally old enough to use up to 10% DEET spray (and old enough to use baby sunscreen, so I've been told!). I won't have to worry nearly as much about my kids - or myself - contracting West Nile or Lyme. In other countries, people are still dying at alarming rates from malaria. It's shocking and heartbreaking, because a simple mosquito net and some quality repellent could literally save lives. You know that I'm not a full-out crunchy mom, so it shouldn't surprise you that I'm pro "use whatever works." But in this circumstance, the difference between being crunchy and being "toxic" is also the only thing standing between me and a terrible decline in my health. It seems absolutely insane to put my kids at risk as well. I know what DEET does, and I know what mosquitoes have done to my uncle. I'll be grabbing some Off! Deep Woods and spraying it on liberally, and we'll be enjoying the outdoors this summer every chance we get - with no worries hanging over our heads.