DEET proven very safe |

DEET proven very safe

Daily Staff Writer

Use bug spray to keep West Nile virus awayDr. Drew Werner Daily ColumnistI hope you had a great Independence Day! I like thinking of Independence Day better than saying “the Fourth of July.” It reminds me of the real celebration of our freedom. How fortunate we are. You have probably heard the saying, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Perhaps we have no greater power than our freedom. I also like to think that one of our greatest freedoms is in making our health care decisions. Dear Doc: My mother phoned me to ask me to write to you regarding your column in the Vail Daily. I would like to inform you about the risks of using DEET and that warnings should be made along with the urge to use DEET as a West Niles preventative. Avon’s Skin-So-Soft or First Nature’s Natural Insect Repellent are perfectly effective non-DEET alternatives.- A Concerned Mother Dear Mother: An example I often use is this analogy. Imagine neighbors are coming over for dinner. You are preparing your favorite meal, everything is ready and the day is sunny and beautiful. You have decided to serve red wine when you suddenly realize you have none. Even worse, water is the only thing in the house to drink. They won’t arrive for an hour or so. What would you do? Now imagine this. Same situation, same problem only the date is in February. The blizzard of the century has just struck and “no unnecessary travel” advisories are in effect. Looking down the driveway you can just make out the shadow of the town plow in the ditch. What would you do now? If you are like most people, your two answers are different.We do it all the time. That is make decisions based on risk and benefit. Is that bottle of wine worth the risk of a car accident? It could happen either day, but with the snow swirling we are much more aware of it. The freedom to choose often seems easy. A decision made on only one level may not actually be best in the long term. Like anything we do, a little extra time and effort will give us much better results. Thinking about all the aspects of our health choices will lead to decisions which will improve the quality of our lives.When we make decisions, our emotions play a role. Financial considerations may be important, and of course evidence based reasoning (what proof is there). The risks of DEET are extremely low, while the benefits are significantly greater than any other repellant available. In an article published in the American Family Physician, the lowest concentrations of DEET have been proven to protect from mosquito bites for about 90 to 170 minutes. This was a well done scientific study using human volunteers. The best Avon product, Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus, ranged from 10 to 60 minutes. Similar results were documented in the New England Journal of Medicine. They found the average time of protection from bites using Skin-So-Soft Bath Oil was only 9.6 minutes. Nevertheless, other insect repellants on the market including wristband products, electronic devices and citronella-based products were even less effective. If the most serious consequences of a mosquito bite were redness, swelling and itching, the non-DEET products would look more appealing. Given the serious risk of West Nile virus, however, the risks of DEET pale in comparison. The New England Journal of Medicine further concluded that despite the substantial attention paid by the lay press every year to the safety of DEET, this repellent has been subjected to more scientific and toxicologic scrutiny than any other repellent substance. Despite 8,000,000,000 applications of DEET worldwide, less than 100 cases of serious toxicity have been reported. The beauty of our freedom is in the power to make our own decisions. The most important thing is to be informed and to then make the most responsible decision for yourself.Please join me in thanking all those who have and continue to uphold our freedom!Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.

Support Local Journalism