I’ve heard that DEET is toxic but what insect repellent can I use on my child instead?
Stacey, Edmonton


There are safer, less toxic alternatives to DEET and simple steps to prevent a mosquito explosion in your backyard.


Choose DEET-free insect repellent because DEET is a suspected neurotoxin and respiratory toxin. Check your local health food store for herbal repellents containing essential oils like citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, lemongrass, or peppermint which are mosquito deterrents. They are safe for use on children but not on babes younger than two.


Whether you’re out camping or just lounging in the backyard, try these simple tips:

• Switch to unscented personal care products like soaps, lotions and shampoos since mosquitoes love fragrance. Switch to unscented laundry soap too.

• Wear light-coloured, long sleeved shirts, long pants and socks. Tuck your kid’s pants into their socks for extra protection.

• Refresh any bird baths or pet dishes kept outdoors because stagnant, standing water can become a mosquito nursery overnight.

• Fill, cover or remove any items in your backyard that may collect water – empty planters, kids’ toys, wheelbarrows, garbage can lids, etc.

• Keep your gutters clean to help rainwater flow freely.

• If you have low spots or areas that puddle in your yard, fill them with soil, gravel or rocks.

• Cut your grass to about three inches tall.

• Install birdhouses or feeders to attract wild birds like swallows and martins, which feast on mosquitoes.

If you must use DEET, use it sparingly. Read the label carefully, follow the instructions, and do not use concentrations greater than 30 per cent for adults and 10 per cent for kids. Lower concentrations are as effective; they just don’t last as long. Never put DEET on children under six months old and never rinse DEET off into oceans, lakes or rivers.

Lindsay Coulter gives you the straight goods on living green. Send your questions to queenofgreen@metronews.ca. For more great tips, visit The David Suzuki Foundation at davidsuzuki.org.