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WTF is DEET? What Every Parent Needs to Know about Traditional Insect Repellants

After an icy-cold Canadian winter, we cannot wait to go out and enjoy spring. But like all parents out there, the anxiety sets in when you realize you have to leave your house. Go for a walk in the spring and summer can be a daunting task. Do I have everything? Diaper bag, sunscreen, hat with a brim, change of clothes, snacks, *did I eat breakfast?*, more extra clothes, diaper cream, keys, phone, the CHILD!! You finally leave the house and OMG, is that a freaking mosquito?!
These flying and crawling little pests can mess up your whole day. But what is a parent to do? What is the best way to protect our little ones? Is there a safe mosquito repellent for babies? How do I know what is safe? What is DEET? What is DEET-free? If there’s a DEET-free, why is it in there in the first place? Confusion.

Let’s break it down.
DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is a smelly colourless liquid chemical found in insect repellents. What did I just read? Yup, ‘colourless liquid chemical’ on our skin. GREAT.  
DEET is used in products to prevent bites from insects such as mosquitoes, biting flies, fleas and small flying insects. Scientists haven’t proven how DEET works (that’s so comforting…) but they have associated it with nasty side effects such as skin irritation, redness, rashes, and swelling. People that have accidentally swallowed products containing DEET have experienced upset stomachs, vomiting, and nausea. In some extreme cases, it was also associated with seizures.

Health Canada has recommended that DEET not be used on children younger than 6 months of age. The AAP (American Association of Paediatrics) has also recommended that DEET should be applied no more than one time per day for children and that products used on children should have the lowest DEET concentration available, or preferably no DEET at all. Both Health Canada and the AAP have cautioned parents not to use DEET on the hands of children and to avoid applying it to areas around children’s eyes and mouths.
The issue here is that the efficiency with products containing DEET depends on the concentration of it – the lower the concentration, the more times it needs to be applied. Which makes it useless to use on babies and kids all together, let alone safe. (For more info on DEET usage recommendations by Health Canada click here)
So why is it in our products? Why does this even exist?!!
As a parent of two nature-loving girls, I know the anxiety your feeling. I don’t want this stuff anywhere near my kid! I decided to source a natural alternative, or at least a DEET-free bug spray, until I figured out how to formulate my own. With DEET-free products, you can apply it as much as you want, on any part of the body, as many times as you want! That’s the type of security I’m signing up for! I can stop having nightmares about potential accidents and chemical consumption, that would spiral into a very scary chain of events.

Let me put your mind at ease! After researching, I found ingredients like which hazel, lemongrass, and peppermint are natural mosquito and insect repellants. That sounded great to me. But how could I use those ingredients without drying out my child’s skin? Insert avocado oil and vanilla; naturally soothing and moisturizing! After months of formulation, we created the Timi & Mila Lemon Vanilla Seasonal Spray. 
It’s saved us in the forests, in the mountains, and on neighbourhood park-walks. No matter what option you chose for your family, PLEASE make sure it’s DEET-free, and follow these helpful tips for going outdoors:

#1: Cover your stroller!
Whether it’s a breathable mesh screen, or a thin, breathable swaddle, cover your stroller with something! The best way to prevent bites is to prevent the insect from even coming close to your child.
#2: Go full-sleeve!
You may think it’s hot but dressing your child in light, breathable, full-sleeve clothing can protect them from bites. Skip the sandals and go for covered shoes. There’s nothing more annoying than having a bug bite on tiny toes!
#3: Avoid ponds!
I know the water is pretty and the ducks are cute, but avoid walking near ponds, rivers, or lakes in the evening as these areas are breading grounds for mosquitos!
#4: Keep your bug spray close!
Our Timi & Mila Lemon Vanilla Seasonal Spray comes in a larger at-home size, and a travel-size for the baby bag or car. I use mine not only to spray me and my kids, but also their strollers, car seats, toys…everything! The all-natural ingredients work on any surface and give me the peace of mind to enjoy my spring and summer evenings after months of freezing cold!Stay safe, everyone!