Summer has arrived and so have your annoying neighborhood mosquitoes, who show up uninvited to every party. Everyone’s first impulse is to spray on the DEET, an effective, insect repellent, to keep them away.
If you have hepatitis B, and are working hard to “love your liver”, you might be wondering what affect DEET will have on your liver. Your liver is an amazing organ responsible for filtering just about everything we inhale, ingest or absorb through the skin. DEET is an effective, but strong chemical, that when applied to the skin, or accidentally inhaled while spraying, or ingested due to poor hand washing, may be found in the blood stream up to 12 hours later. It’s your liver’s job to ensure this toxin is filtered from your system. An over-taxed liver can be problematic for anyone, but placing additional burdens on your liver when you have HBV can contribute to liver damage over time.
Here are a couple of things to consider. Mosquitoes and other flying, or biting insects are vectors for numerous diseases that can make us very sick. (Please keep in mind that mosquitoes are NOT vectors for hepatitis B.) As a result we have to consider other options, or weigh the risks vs. the benefits of spraying on a dose of DEET. If you do decide that DEET is the best protection against mosquitoes, consider limiting your exposure by applying it to your clothing, rather than directly to the skin. When you’re back inside and out of mosquito territory, wash it off. Don’t wear it to bed.
A natural alternative to chemically produced repellents is citronella, which has been registered for use in the U.S. since 1948. It is made by steam distillation of certain grasses, and is considered a biopesticide, a naturally occurring substance that controls by non-toxic means.
Citronella can be purchased in various outdoor candles and natural, registered products such as Burt’s Bee’s Herbal Insect Repellent, or Avon Skin So Soft. Citronella and other remedies can be purchased as essential oils and applied to the skin. Please remember that natural does not equate to safe. Make sure directions-for-use are legitimate and followed explicitly. These oils are dangerous when ingested, and they are not packaged in child-resistant containers to avoid accidental swallowing. Be sure to research all natural remedies or chemical products, and ensure the directions-for-use are legitimate, and that they are stored out of reach of children. In researching this blog, I ran across various factoids and instructions-for-use with natural remedies that were contradicted in other articles.
Here are some additional tips that may require a little more forethought, and may not be as effective as a chemical repellent. However, they can provide some relief and perhaps a balance. Recommendations include:
- Wear light colored clothing. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark clothing.
- Cover as much skin as possible with clothing… long sleeves, pants, socks, hats, etc.
- Consider the fragrances you wear. Floral or fruity fragrances, scented soaps, perfumes, hair products, scented sunscreen and even fragrance from fabric softeners and dryer sheets attract mosquitoes. In my house, nothing smells clean and fresh. Everything is unscented.
- Avoid being out when mosquitoes are most active – dawn and dusk.
- Use external fans. Mosquitoes don’t fly well in a stiff breeze!
- Avoid areas with standing water.
- Eat garlic…lots of it. My pharmacist is Indian, and also prescribes natural remedies. She told me garlic is often consumed in massive quantities to discourage mosquitoes.
- Bats are your friends… I grew up with two medium-sized, but stagnant ponds on our property. We had lots of bats and no mosquitoes.
As always, it’s all about common sense and balance. If you’re having a picnic at the Dismal Swamp, or traveling to countries where the risk of disease carrying mosquitoes is very high, then you might want to think about bringing along the can of DEET, and using it responsibly. Perhaps an outing here or there may also warrant the use. Otherwise, make an attempt to combat mosquitoes naturally, or make a concerted effort to avoid them at their worst. Yet another way to incorporate “loving your liver” into your daily life!