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Malaria,Garlic, and DEET

Malaria,Garlic, and DEET


We were given a pharmacopeia of Malarial drugs and told to pack 100% DEET insect repellent for our 6 month overland trip to Africa years ago.  It worked pretty well, until we hit Sub-Saharan Africa that is (where the Malaria is really a problem).  There we found the mosquitoes laughed at our DEET, and feasted with abandon on our flesh.   Our driver, who had been this route before, laughed at our flailing dances as we slapped at the insects.  He told us the one sure preventative he had found to work, and it wasn’t pretty, but miraculously effective. We each ate a whole clove of garlic a day, and that seemed to keep the mosquitoes away.  Go figure! This was at the point in our trip when we were crossing through remote areas where we went for almost a month without a proper shower. We were camping the whole way and would resort to standing out in the occasional torrential rainstorm with shampoo and a bar of soap to do the best we could.  Scientist theorize that the garlic oil exuded from the skin after eating garlic forms a natural repellent barrier to mosquitoes, possibly obscuring the scent that attracts them.  This may be where the garlic repelling vampires comes from.  As you can imagine we stank something terrible, but since we were all in the same shape it didn’t really seem to bother us.

About a year later, my friend Caroline who had been on the Africa trip, and now lived in Washington D.C., became very ill.  Her fever was extremely high, but then the next day it was completely gone, and she felt fine.

Caroline in Africa

This repeated itself for a few days before she went to the doctor, who was also perplexed.  I can’t remember exactly how they came to the diagnosis of Malaria, but when they did the teaching hospital was apparently excited to have a live case to present it’s residents. She was treated and completely cured, the only lasting effect being a great story to be told.

Although malaria was eradicated in the U.S. in the 1950s, cases do appear every year mostly brought back by travelers.  Mosquitoes here still pose the slight threat of encephalitis and West Nile virus which can both be deadly.  I have avoided the 100% DEET since my Africa trip, but that’s not to say I can get away with eating a clove of garlic a day either. I would keep much more than just the mosquitoes away if I did!  As a mother I like to avoid chemicals as much as possible and the American academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents used on children contain no more the 10% DEET. Some of their examples are:

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

OFF! Skintastic for kids pump/spray has 5%DEET

OFF! Skintastic Fresh Scent Lotion 7.5% DEET

Just for Kids pump/spray 5% DEET

Repel Camp Lotion for Kids Lotion 10% DEET

Above all else, I prefer to use all natural products on my children such as Brittanie’s Thyme Outdoor Harmony Organic Bug Spray which can be found at Whole Foods or ordered online. Brittanie’s Thyme was kind enough to send me a sample of their bug spray and bug bite relief (both organic) to review in my quest for organic products to use on my family.  I like the fact that this is a company owned by women committed to organic, safe, sustainable and socially responsible products.  Though the scent is very strong when first applied, it is that which keeps the bugs at bay.  The bug bite relief is soothing and has natural anti-itching and antibacterial properties as well.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay


Unfortunately outside of this country a child still dies from Malaria every minute.  Today has been declared World Malaria Day in an effort to bring attention to a preventable and curable disease who’s victims are most often under 5 years old. The simple step of distribution of  insecticide-treated bed nets can save lives.

World Malaria Day 2012 #endmalaria



Watch the brief video below for more information:

click to watch










*  I received a free sample of Brittanie’s Thyme Organic Bug Spray and Organic Bug Bite Relief for reviewing purposes.   All my opinions are my own and not swayed by outside sources.