We have a great pediatrician. I’m so happy with how through he is, how well he listens, and how seriously he takes my son. Having said that, I was shocked at the advice we got at our last visit.
He was advising us on proper outdoor summer care for our baby. He recommended sunscreen to prevent sunburn and DEET for insect repellent. I said, “unhuh, okay.” He said that we should just use a tiny amount of the really strong stuff rather than spraying him all over with the “family” DEET. I said, “oh, okay.” And then he said that the herbal insect repellents don’t work nearly as well. And I said, “oh, okay.”
In my defense, I think I was so shocked to hear him recommend DEET for a baby that I didn’t know what to say. I’ve been told by people who are not really very “naturally minded” that I should never use DEET, and he was telling me to use it on my baby?!? But as he was saying it (and as I was saying, “okay, doctor”) I knew I would not use DEET on Max no matter what he said. I really need to work on this. I usually trust doctors and I don’t know how to question them. But with my son in the condition he is, I really need to know why they recommend what they recommend in any situation. “why do we need this test? What will it show? And why is it important to know one way or the other? How is knowing going to change his care plan?” (This is important for every parent, by the way. Doctors should explain things much better than they do, and give alternative treatments. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t even aware of alternative treatments because the drug companies give them lots of money to promote their products. But that’s beside the point!)
So when the doctor told me to put DEET on my baby I just said, “okay doctor.” When I should have said, “Really? I’ve heard that DEET isn’t advised for anyone, and I would think that would apply especially to babies.” But in my defense, I wasn’t educated about the alternatives. I knew that herbal insect repellents don’t work very well, but I didn’t know what would.
So when we got home I talked it over with my husband a little bit. Mosquito bites are uncomfortable, but not really life threatening (at least in our area, West Nile is not an issue). And you can keep from getting a lot of bites if you are careful and smart about when you are out. The more serious concern would be ticks and contracting Lyme disease. So I did some research.
I found an article by an herbalist about Lyme Disease (2009 Pathways Magazine). Apparently, it is easily treated with an antibiotic in many cases. There are, however, cases that hang around after multiple series of treatments. These are cases where the tick passes a viral infection in addition to the common bacteria associated with Lyme Disease. The antibiotics treat the bacteria, but the viral infection continues to cause symptoms. So the risk relates to the cases where there is both a bacteria and viral infection. Andrea Candee (author of the article) recommends Eucalyptus essential oil for preventing tick bites. Now, granted, she is not a doctor (she’s an herbalist!). Her recommendation hasn’t been peer reviewed or clinically tested, but she’s a mother who spends a lot of time outside in “tick territory,” so I trust her experience. Here are her dosage recommendations:
16 oz. of water
1 oz. eucalyptus essential oil
Put it in a spray bottle and spray on skin before spending time outside – stays potent for several months
For longer Protection:
10 drops eucalypts
½ oz. almond or sunflower seed oil
Apply to skin and clothing.
So that’s what I will be trying out this summer for insect repellent. Nothing is a guarantee against insect bites (just like a vaccine won’t guarantee you won’t get a disease). We still have to be smart. We will look Max over – head to toe – if we are going to be somewhere there is a large tick population. We will try to keep him inside during the really buggy time of the night. We do want to protect him. We just don’t want to do it with harsh chemicals.