Q. Whenever I turn on the television and see another report about West Nile Virus it scares me to death. I live in Florida and play golf at least three times a week and also work outside in the yard. The mosquitoes are voracious, so I apply lots of DEET insect repellent to my legs, ankles, arms, face, neck, socks and shirt. I try not to inhale the stuff, but I know I breathe in some of it. I worry about using so much DEET and would like some alternative approaches.
A. According to public health authorities, DEET is the most effective repellent available. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine (July 4, 2002) reinforced this message and downplayed toxicity concerns.
Although this report suggested that oral compounds are ineffective, we occasionally hear from readers who have had good luck with such an approach:
“Brewers’ yeast really works. Before I went to Alaska I took several capsules a day for three weeks. Those huge Alaska mosquitoes flew all around me, but not a one ever lit on me. I did not have a single bite.”
People differ in their reactions, so you might not do as well with brewers’ yeast as this reader did. Other non-DEET options include Bite Blocker (soybean oil) or products like Fite Bite or Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent (eucalyptus oil).