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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

People’s Pharmacy: Protecting kids from mosquito bites

DEET is safe to use as a mosquito repellant as long as you follow directions.  (Telegram & Gazette)
By Joe Graedon, M.S., </p><p>and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. What mosquito repellents are safe for kids? I seem to remember that you have written about problems with DEET.

A. DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) has been controversial for decades. It was developed by the U.S. military shortly after World War II to protect troops from dengue, malaria and other tropical diseases carried by mosquitoes.

In 1957, it was released on the consumer market. DEET is effective in repelling ticks as well as mosquitoes, so it can help protect youngsters from Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, as well as West Nile virus.

Over the years, there have been a few reports of neurological reactions in young children (Human & Experimental Toxicology, January 2001).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency both say that DEET is safe as long as parents follow the instructions on the label.

If you prefer to avoid DEET, there are effective alternatives. Pediatrician Alan Greene recommends picaridin-containing products such as Natrapel and Sawyer on his website

Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus are also effective and considered safe for children. Consumer Reports suggests that adults should apply insect repellent to their own hands and then rub it on children’s exposed skin.

Q. I use sunscreen religiously. I think you have written that this might interfere with my skin’s ability to make vitamin D. If that is true, how much should I take as a supplement?

A. The old understanding was that sunscreen prevented the skin from manufacturing the precursor to vitamin D. More recent research suggests that is not necessarily true (British Journal of Dermatology, November 2019).

Many factors affect how well people make vitamin D. Skin coloration, time in the sun, protective clothing and body surface exposure all impact vitamin D levels.

A recent review concludes that you can reach optimal vitamin D levels without burning your skin (JBMR Plus, Jan. 19).

You can learn more about this essential nutrient in our eGuide to Vitamin D and Optimal Health. This online resource is found in the Health eGuide tab at

The best way to determine how much vitamin D you should be taking is to have blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D measured periodically. Between 30 and 50 ng/mL is considered desirable.

Q. Are you still running tests on generic bupropion? I have a feeling mine (150 mg XL) is not working properly. It is marked A101 on each pill.

I noticed a significant change in mood and a return of my symptoms after I was switched to this product. I had been taking a different bupropion generic.

A. You are not the only reader to report issues with this generic form of the antidepressant Wellbutrin XL 150. Another person shared this comment: “When the manufacturer of this generic drug was changed, I started having a lot of preventricular contractions (PVCs).

“When I went back to the original manufacturer, the PVCs stopped! The pill that triggers PVCs is imprinted with A101. How should I report this problem?”

The FDA runs an adverse event reporting program called MedWatch. We have badgered the agency about the absorption characteristics of this generic formulation.

So far, though, the FDA has not taken any action. Reporting problems to MedWatch might get the agency’s attention. You can find it through a simple online search for “MedWatch.”

Valisure has volunteered to test your generic bupropion. To request a sample collection kit, email

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website