Year in review: Bleeding Heartland on food and parenting in 2009

This blog will always be primarily about politics, but I enjoy writing about other subjects from time to time. In fact, one of my new year’s resolutions for Bleeding Heartland is to write more about food and parenting in 2010.

After the jump I’ve compiled links to posts on those topics in 2009. Some of the diaries were political, others are personal. The link I’m most proud of combined the two: My case against Hanna Rosin’s case against breastfeeding.

Any thoughts or suggestions for future topics to cover are welcome in this thread.

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Yes, you can avoid mosquitoes without using DEET

I got my first mosquito bite of the year yesterday, so I knew it was time to get out the bug spray and post a new version of this diary.

Unfortunately, many public health authorities still recommend using insect repellents containing DEET. Having researched this issue a few years ago after my older son was born, I would not recommend DEET for anyone, especially children or adults living in a household with children.

The Environmental Protection Agency does not permit DEET products to be labeled “child safe” and requires labels directing parents not to allow children to handle the product. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Environmental Protection Agency both recommend precautions when applying DEET to children, such as washing skin treated with DEET as well as treated clothing when children return inside. Few families find it practical to bathe their children and wash their clothing every time they come in from outside during the summer.

Kids Health for Parents, a web site published by the Nemours Foundation, recommends that repellents containing DEET be used “sparingly” on children between the ages of 2 and 12 and not put on their faces or hands, because children so frequently put their hands in their mouths.

The Lyme Disease Foundation has this advice for keeping ticks away: “On skin, use a repellent containing DEET. But don’t overdo it. Too much bug spray can cause breathing difficulty, especially in children.”

In any event, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has found that “repellents containing the ingredient picaridin or the oil of lemon eucalyptus can protect people against mosquitoes as well as repellents containing the chemical DEET.”

Grist reviewed several DEET-free alternatives last summer. The Daily Green listed a few more DEET-free insect repellents here.

I’ve tried several of the products mentioned in those pieces. We mostly use Buzz Away, but other DEET-free brands seem to work well too. The main difference between them and DEET is that you have to reapply the natural repellents more frequently, about every one to two hours. Usually that’s no problem for me, because I only need it when I walk the dog or take the kids to the park for an hour or two.

Share your tips for beating the mosquitoes in this thread.

UPDATE: I got an e-mail from an avid gardener who swears by generic-brand listerine in a spray bottle. Reapply every hour or two, she says.

SECOND UPDATE: At Mother Talkers, Jenniferfree2bme posted a great tip about home-made spray using catnip oil.

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Yes, the mosquitoes are bad, but no, don't use DEET

Heavy rains and flooding across Iowa have created a wonderful environment for mosquito populations to explode. I rode to and from Grinnell on Friday and saw field after field with huge pools of standing water, even after a solid week of sunny weather in central Iowa.

Mr. desmoinesdem heard someone from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources say on Iowa Public Radio that mosquito counts this summer are about seven times higher than they were at the same time last year.

The Des Moines Register ran two articles about mosquitoes within the past week. The good news is that the mosquitoes that thrive in puddles on saturated ground are largely “nuisance species that can’t efficiently spread West Nile virus,” according to Ann Garvey, state public health veterinarian for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The bad news is that experts cited in the Register are still encouraging people to use DEET-based insect repellents. The Register reported that the IDPH recommends “DEET at less than 30 percent concentrations to avoid potential health problems, including neurological problems.”

Dr. Denis Reavis, an urgent care physician at Mercy North in Ankeny quoted in this Register article, said DEET is the most effective way to prevent mosquito bites. The Register added:

DEET comes in different strengths for kids and adults. Babies less than 2 months old should not come in any contact with DEET.

Having researched this issue a few years ago after my older son was born, I would not recommend that anyone, even adults, use DEET in a household with children.

The Environmental Protection Agency does not permit DEET products to be labeled “child safe” and requires labels directing parents not to allow children to handle the product. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Environmental Protection Agency both recommend precautions when applying DEET to children, such as washing skin treated with DEET as well as treated clothing when children return inside. Few families find it practical to bathe their children and wash their clothing every time they come in from outside during the summer.

Kids Health for Parents, a web site published by the Nemours Foundation, recommends that repellents containing DEET be used “sparingly” on children between the ages of 2 and 12 and not put on their faces or hands, because children so frequently put their hands in their mouths.

The Lyme Disease Foundation has this advice for keeping ticks away: “On skin, use a repellent containing DEET. But don’t overdo it. Too much bug spray can cause breathing difficulty, especially in children.”

In any event, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has found that “picaridin and the oil of lemon eucalyptus provide the same level of protection [from mosquitoes] as DEET.”

I’ve tried several of the natural bug repellents mentioned in this piece, including Buzz Away, Buzz Away Extreme and Bug Ease. They all seem to work equally well. The main difference between them and DEET is that you have to reapply the natural repellents more frequently, about every one to two hours. Usually that’s no problem for me, because I only need it when I walk the dog or take the kids to the park for an hour or two.

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