Category: Preventative

safe insect repellent

Safe insect repellents that work

We’re at the peak of the tick and mosquito season, as our weather is at its warmest this month. And we are about to start the height of flea season. The warming climate is predicted to expand the habitat of ticks and mosquitos. So insect repellent is definitely needed. But which insect repellents are safe and effective?

Many of my patients who know of my caution in using products containing potentially harmful chemicals have asked me to suggest a safe insect repellent that will provide protection. It is important, for starters, to recognize that there is no perfect and completely safe way to prevent insect bites. However, all repellents are not created equal and you do have options for less toxic approaches.

This is what I usually share when I get asked about bug sprays.

 

Which ingredients are safe (and at what levels)

My go-to for any products containing chemical ingredients is the Environmental Working Group or EWG. A couple of months back, I shared my thoughts on sunscreen and much of my recommendations came from the research and advocacy of the EWG.

According to the EWG, DEET (at less than 30%), Picaridin (at 20%) and IR3535 (at less than 20%) are the safest, most effective ingredients. All three are found in insect repellents that live up to extensive EPA regulations with data to back up efficacy and safety claims. Here’s a quick primer on all three ingredients:

 

DEET

This is probably the ingredient you’ve heard of the most. It is rated as very effective in repelling a wide range of mosquitoes, ticks and other bugs. DEET has been used extensively and is a sensible choice for all-day protection. However, it often shows up in repellents at what are considered unsafe levels. DEET has a strong smell, can irritate the eyes and in rare cases can induce neurological damage. The incidents of nervous system damage most often occur after high exposures to DEET. And it’s even been known to melt plastic at these levels!

However, this is why less than 30% concentration is advisable. And really, you can be protected with just 10% for a couple of hours (then reapply). DEET isn’t perfect – but it has a long history of use and minimal safety concerns when used at appropriate levels. The EWG states that it’s a “reasonable choice” when weighed against the consequences of a life-changing disease, with few cases of toxicity in 60 years on the market. But it’s not the only choice you have.

 

Picaridin

Repellents containing picaridin have been shown to be effective against mosquitos and ticks from eight to 14 hours at a 20% concentration. It’s not an ingredient as widely used as DEET, so the number of studies is fewer…but it evaporates from the skin more slowly than both DEET or IR3535 and may repel bugs for longer periods. Other pros include very low inhalation toxicity, virtually no skin irritation and no stinky odor.

I wish Picaridin had more time on the market (it’s quite new) but it is promising. I also like that at very low concentration, this ingredient can provide minimum of five hours of protection. So you may get what you need with a product that has just 5-10%.

 

IR3535

With a long presence on the European market, IR3535 provides similar or slightly less efficacy than DEET or Picaridin against mosquitoes. However, it is twice as effective against deer ticks. At the recommended 20% concentration, you’ll get eight hours of mosquito protection and at least six hours of tick protection. But IR3535 can be very irritating to the eyes.

Otherwise, this could be a good choice but I’d recommend against purchasing brands containing added sunscreen (products using IR3535 often have this). Sunscreens require more frequent application…and combo products would overexpose you to the insect repellent.

 

Do essential oils and botanicals work

In short, they can. However, there is no way to know how effective they are or for how long. In relying on them, you’re likely heading outdoors with a false sense of security that could put you at greater risk than if you were using nothing at all. Repellents that rely on essential oils or botanicals are classified technically as a minimum-risk pesticide – meaning they undergo no significant testing of efficacy. An essential oils/botanical label can say that the substance repels mosquitoes and ticks, but they can’t say it will protect you from Lyme, Zika or any other vector-borne disease.

safe-insect-repellentEssential oils and botanicals mixtures can be made at home or purchased ready-made. They do offer SOME protection to be sure. But they also evaporate more quickly from the skin. You’ll have to apply more frequently, and again, you’ll get zero protection from some specific illnesses.

They can irritate the skin – or you may find that you are allergic to a specific essential oil or botanical. They are never recommended for young children, due to lack of research. The EWG recommends avoiding all botanically-based repellents if you like in a high-risk area for disease or need long-lasting protection except one: Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Repel and Cutter brands have well-known products with Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus as the active ingredient. But again, the protection time is much shorter than DEET or the other chemicals mentioned earlier.

In light of diseases such as Zika and Lyme, the consequences of ineffective repellents can be severe. It’s important to use one that you know works well. Essential oils have no standardized oversight, such as EPA regulations. You may be taking a chance in using them.

 

How else to repel insects

Thankfully, there are many other tactics for keeping insects at bay aside from what you apply to your body.

For starters, avoid the dusk and dawn in the US, when mosquitoes are the worst. Clear your yard of places where mosquitoes like to breed (particularly any place with standing water). Mosquito netting works well for many spaces such as tents, strollers and on the porch. Always cover up exposed skin as much as possible with long sleeves/pants – and you can spray your clothing rather than your body for some protection. This site had some other ideas you may want to try.

 

I had a patient recently that wore a dog tick/flea collars around his boots. He said it helps prevent ticks and bugs from getting him when he is working outside. I thought this was brilliant! And it would avoid any risk of toxicity because it isn’t touching the skin.

The bottom line is that we all have to protect ourselves, particularly if we are outside for a long time and in an area prone to insect-born illnesses. The good news is that we have safe insect repellents that are effective. We’ve just got to know the facts and choose our protection wisely!

Dr. Sharman

 

Photo credit: ID 137875252 © Elizaveta Galitskaya | Dreamstime.com

Which sandals are best for your feet

Which sandals are best for your feet (flip flops too)?

After months of having our feet hidden in shoes and boots, it’s finally time to show some toes and wear summertime shoes! While I love a fun pair of flip-flops or sandals as much as the next person, I unfortunately see the impact of wearing cheap, unsupportive shoes in the warmer months.

Those cheap, flat flip-flops that everyone seems to love to wear are horrible for arch support, contributing to plantar fasciitis and causing you to slip and get an injury from the lack of foot support. Slipping on the wrong pair of shoes week after week can result in pain that manifests itself in many parts of the body: feet, knees, thighs, hips, lower back and spine.

The good news is that you can opt for the sandals best for your feet – and even flip flops – without skimping on trendy and fun designs. And the best part is that you can purchase them right here from us!

Many of you know that through our partnership with Foot Levelers, we can create custom orthotics that fit into your shoes. However, most don’t realize that Foot Levelers also creates orthotic sandals and flip-flops, by designing their own products and fitting their orthotics into some well-known brands such as Naot.

So let’s take a look the sandals and flip-flops from Foot Levelers that we can help you get into right away.

 

Custom Flip flops

Foot Levelers offers a wide variety of hand-made flip-flops that come with a patented 3 Arch Advantage, providing support for all three arches of the foot. Besides arch support, they are also designed with a softer, more comfortable mid-layer than over-the-counter flip flops and shock absorption on heel-strike. And what I really love is that Foot Levelers custom-fits the strap for your feet – basically making them fit like they were made just for you…because they are!

Getting fitted for your new flip-flops is easy. We have the scanning kiosk right in our office. Getting scanned and fitted only takes a few minutes. And with the scans, I’ll be able to help you choose the best flip-flops for your unique feet.

Not only will you get a great fitting pair of flip-flops – the styles are on trend with what you see in everyday retail stores. If you didn’t know, you would think they were simply cute, stylish sandals (the orthopedic shoe look of your grandma is nowhere to be seen!).

Which sandals are best for your feet

Most popular style: Bling

First custom orthotic flip-flop: Seabreeze

Great option for men: Catamaran or Maui

Flip-flops come in whole sizes only. You can view the entire line of custom orthotic flip flops here.

 

Custom Sandals

If you don’t find flip-flops as comfortable or need a dressier summer shoe, we’ve got you covered! There are two great options to choose from, First, Foot Levelers has teamed up with a popular sandal brand, Naot, to offer custom orthotics built into their shoes’ foot bed. Several Naot styles are available with a custom orthotic – including the Naot Paris, a nice heeled sandal you could wear with a dress or dress pants.

The second option is a truly custom sandal developed by Foot Levelers. This sandal, called Roanoke Sandalthotic® (named after the hometown of the company) comes in two colors and mirrors the style that many name brands are selling these days. The shoes are casual and comfortable with an anatomically-shaped cork-latex foot bed and adjustable straps.

Which sandals are best for your feet As with custom flip-flops, we will scan your feet in our office and send off measurements to Foot Levelers to have your shoes custom-made.

Sandals come in both men’s and women’s styles and in whole sizes only. You can view both the Naot sandals and Roanoke Sandalthotic®’s product lines online.

 

RELATED: 5 Reasons why custom orthotics will change your life for the better

 

Your feet are your foundation. And the wrong shoes contribute to pain in many parts of the body aside from your feet. Custom orthotics provide you the support you need for pain relief and comfort. The orthotics we can fit you for here in the office will last a very long time – and a pair of custom orthotic flip-flops or sandals will be worth the investment in the benefits your body will receive.

Which sandals are best for your feet For the summer, we’re offering a great deal for customers:

Buy one pair of custom orthotic shoes, flip-flops or sandals and get a second pair for $150! 

It’s like getting two pair of shoes for the price of one!

You can access the entire orthotic catalog here…then stop in our office for a quick feet scan. We will scan your feet, place your order and you’ll have your shoes back within a few weeks. Just in time for the pool – so don’t delay!

Dr. Sharman