Mosquito Repellant Warning for Hepatitis C
Mosquitoes are emerging as more of a nuisance than ever. To keep up with their infestations, the market for DEET-containing mosquito repellants is booming. While DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide) is fairly effective at repelling mosquitoes, its toxicity is a concern for those who are infected with Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C, a potentially chronic viral infection of the liver, slows the liver’s ability to filter and cleanse the blood. The livers of those with Hepatitis C have to work harder to neutralize toxins in the blood because they must battle the virus and function despite inflammation and liver scarring. Thus, chemicals that have been inhaled, absorbed or ingested put an added strain on the liver of someone with Hepatitis C.
We usually think about mosquitoes as annoying pests that leave itchy swellings on exposed skin. However, mosquitoes can also spread disease. Worldwide, mosquitoes are carriers of malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever. However, the diseases they spread in the United States are primarily encephalitis and West Nile Virus. Although mosquitoes don’t transmit hepatitis viruses, protecting yourself from these insects poses an additional threat to those already battling hepatitis.
One of summer’s best-known pests, mosquitoes breed in stagnant water such as
storm drains, wading pools, rain gutters, tree holes, buckets, old tires and birdbaths. Some facts about these irritating insects include:
- Mosquitoes develop from egg to adult in as few as 10 days.
- Mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn.
- Only female mosquitoes feed on human blood.
- One female mosquito may lay 100 to 300 eggs at a time.
- One female mosquito can average 1,000 to 3,000 offspring during her life span.
- Most mosquitoes remain within a 1-mile radius of their breeding site.
Why They Are So Abundant
While some areas of the country have always had more than their share, there are two reasons that mosquito populations have exploded recently:
- Climate Change – Blamed on global warming by environmentalists, much of this country has recently endured unusually heavy rains and rising temperatures. Of course, these two conditions create a perfect breeding environment for mosquitoes.
- Struggling Economy – Evidence of our economical recession, the increasing numbers of foreclosures heightens the potential for mosquito infestations especially in and around foreclosed properties with backyard pools.
DEET is an insect repellent that is used in products to prevent bites from insects such as mosquitoes, biting ﬂies, ﬂeas and other small, ﬂying insects. Developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 for protecting soldiers in insect-infested areas, insect repellants containing DEET have been used by the general public in the United States since 1957.
DEET is a chemical that can find its way into the bloodstream via:
- Absorption – Typically applied directly to the skin, DEET is absorbed more readily when combined with a skin product containing alcohol. Drinking alcohol may also cause more DEET to be absorbed through the skin. Sunscreen products that contain DEET also cause more absorption. After it is applied to the skin, DEET can be found in the blood for up to 12 hours.
- Inhalation – DEET can be inhaled when sprays are used around the body, especially in indoor spaces where the vapors can remain for some time.
- Ingestion – Although people don’t purposefully ingest mosquito repellants, it is possible to swallow DEET if the hands are not washed thoroughly after using DEET on the skin.
There are a variety of reports confirming DEET’s toxicity. Duke University research shows that regular use of chemical repellents like DEET may damage brain cells and interact with medications. The pharmacologist conducting this study observed brain cell death and behavioral changes in animals exposed to DEET after frequent and prolonged use. Another study showed that up to 15 percent of DEET is absorbed by the skin into the bloodstream. Because it is metabolized by the liver, DEET’s toxicity is worrisome to those with Hepatitis C.
10 Alternatives to DEET
Because the most effective way to repel these insects puts an additional burden on the liver, the following suggestions represent alternatives to using this toxic chemical:
- Replace all standing water weekly. This includes birdbaths, ponds and unfiltered pools.
- Remove unneeded vegetation or trash from around any standing water sources.
- Screen windows, doors and other openings with mesh.
- Avoid going outdoors during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
- Apply high quality citronella essential oil to your skin.
- Reported by The New England Journal of Medicine as an effective solution, apply a natural repellent made with soybean oil.
- An Iowa State University research group showed that the essential oil found in the herb catnip is about 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes in the laboratory.
- An ingredient in Neem seed oil has also been found to be more effective than DEET by researchers at the Malaria Institute in India. Both the U.S. National Research Council and the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association have confirmed this finding.
- Because mosquitoes are naturally repelled by the smell, eat lots of fresh garlic.
- Avoid eating bananas and other high-potassium foods, because mosquitoes are attracted to the lactic acid given off after consuming these foods.
Even with zillions of mosquitoes swarming around, you can achieve peace of mind. For those who are not concerned with their liver’s well-being, DEET is one way to repel these insects. But, if you have Hepatitis C and are concerned with helping your liver and not harming it, consider non-toxic alternatives for surviving mosquito infestations.
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