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Insect Repellent and DEET- Your Guide to Outdoor Safety

By DuPage Medical Group

Determining safe ways of protecting your family from insect bites can be confusing. Many products are available to repel common insects like mosquitoes and ticks, but you will need to keep several precautions in mind to use them safely. Products containing DEET are most effective and are approved for use on children, read our list of tips below so you can be sure to choose the appropriate concentration for your outdoor activity and the age of your child.

  • Babies who are two months of age or younger should not come in contact with products containing DEET (even from a parent’s hands). Plan to keep infants inside or cover their stroller or infant carrier in mosquito netting at all times when insects may be present.
  • Products containing any concentration of DEET should be applied to exposed skin (not under clothing), taking care to avoid the face, cuts and abrasions or on the hands of young children (they could ingest the chemicals or irritate eyes). Don’t forget to spray clothing, socks and shoes.
  • Apply spray in an open area and avoid getting fumes near mouths where they may be breathed in.
  • Avoid products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours while products containing DEET should only be applied once per day.
  • Understand concentrations (concentration amount indicates lasting power)
    • Children should only use DEET products in the range of 10% to 30%
    • 10% concentrations are for spending periods of time that will be less than two hours
    • Increase to 30% for all day protection
  • Wash all clothing that has been sprayed before wearing it again, wipe shoes off as best as possible.
  • Bathe yourself and your children before going to sleep, try to remove all residue from skin as thoroughly as possible.
  • If you are pregnant, you will need to weight the risks and benefits of successful protection from insect bites with the fact that effects of DEET use in pregnancy are unknown. DEET does have the ability to cross the placenta, however infections spread by mosquitoes can be very dangerous for a developing fetus. To the degree possible, dress in protective clothing and apply repellent to clothing rather than exposed skin. Try to avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk when insects are most active.
  • If at all possible, avoidance is the best method of reducing exposure to insect bites, try to remain indoors at sunrise, sunset, and early in the evening when mosquitoes are most active.


Topics and Subtopics: General Health

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