The People's Perspective on Medicine

West Nile Worries Feed Mosquito Phobia

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).

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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