Toss that chemical-laden insect repellent! Vitamin B-1 does the job (I think)

If you live in the Houston area you know that the mosquito season is just around the corner and, if you are like many of the parents who email me every year about this, you don’t feel comfortable using chemical-laden insect repellent on your child but don’t know what other options you have.

Last summer I became aware of locally produced patches called “Don’t Bug Me” patch sold at some grocery stores that contained a dose of vitamin B1. I decided to see if they worked and asked a few mothers who happened to be around to try them on their children.

The consensus was that the patch worked, but was expensive, and patches often fell off or children scratched them off and then could no longer be used.

It seemed to me that for the patch to work, the vitamin B1 in it had go through the skin, be absorbed in blood, and then distributed to every part of the body. Otherwise, the patch would only work to keep mosquitoes away from the area of skin where it was applied.

In this case, the patch itself was not a necessity and any way of getting vitamin B1 in the blood, including taking it as a pill, must have worked equally well. With vitamin B1 pills costing pennies, this option seemed appealing.

I researched through all my nutrition textbooks and online but could find no reference to vitamin B1 keeping mosquitoes or other insects away, and yet someone must have known to put it in the patches.

In any case vitamin B1 is safe, besides having proven benefits for carbohydrate metabolism and, among other things, for healthy brain function. Actually, over-consumption of carbohydrates is a known cause of vitamin B1 deficiency because vitamin B1 is used up every time a carbohydrate is consumed. Considering that so many children these days are carb addicts, giving them a little more B1 is probably a good idea anyway.

To test my theory I asked the same moms to try giving their children a 50 mg capsule of vitamin B1, on days when they knew the children would be exposed to mosquitoes. If they also wanted to try it, they could take 100 mg. Though these doses were chosen arbitrarily, they are safe even if taken on a daily basis.

Here the story becomes a bit murky because not all the moms responded, and then winter hit, but a few who did try it told me it worked. However, based on such a small sample it is difficult to say if it is effective for sure. Who knows, maybe on those days the mosquitoes were distracted. Nevertheless it’s an interesting possibility.

If you’d like to try it, you can buy 50 mg B1 capsules from my office and, if your child doesn’t swallow capsules, it’s not a problem because the powder is tasteless and can be mixed in a liquid. Alternatively you can find B1 capsules at just about any health food store. If you do try it, please email me to let me know if it did or didn’t work for you or your child.

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