Nowadays, DEET is considered the best way to repel insects and it is praised by many for its effectiveness; but, it also has major side effects.
People continue using them despite knowing about the side effects in hope of avoiding flea, mosquito, and tick-borne diseases.
According to a recent research, people will no longer need to choose between the lesser of two evils because a compound from coconut oil, a natural substance, works better than DEET in the repelling of insects.
DEET: Effective for Mosquito Repelling, but Bad for Our Health
DEET is an active ingredient present in a lot of bug-repelling creams, sprays, lotions, roll-ons, etc. available in several concentration, the EPA estimates show that as much as third of the population in America uses such products on a regular basis.
Though you may think that DEET works by preventing the biting, it actually creates a skin barrier that masks your scent that is attractive to insects. In other words, the insect cannot recognize they can “feast” from your skin when you have applied this product.
This may sound great in theory; but the reality cannot be neglected- DEET has been associated with serious health issues, including itching, redness, hives, seizures, sperm mutation, and immune system suppression.
Coconut Oil May be the Answer?
The study, published in Scientific Reports, found that specific fatty acids from coconut oil have high repellency properties and are effective in keeping insects at bay. This includes ticks, mosquitoes, bed bugs, and biting flies.
The compounds were able to provide protection for amazing two weeks and ticks for at least one week. On the other hand, DEET loses its tick and bed bug prevention within three days.
Nevertheless, the researchers explain that coconut oil itself is not a viable repellent. It is the free fatty acid blend of caprylic, lauric, and capric acid derived from the oil that possesses great repellency.
The fatty acids were 95 percent efficient in the protection from stable flies whereas the percentage offered by DEET is only 50. Researchers therefore hope that there will soon be a coconut oil-based repellent to help us prevent insect-borne diseases naturally and without harmful side effects.
Unfortunately, flea, tick, and mosquito bite diseases are exponentially growing in the US, i.e. from 27000 cases in 2004 to 96000 cases in 2016. Could coconut oil help us create a healthier repellent product than DEET? It remains to be seen.