Bug Repellent Safety
Bug repellent safety refers to the proper use of chemicals applied to the
skin or clothing to ward off insects. If they are not used correctly, these substances can sometimes
cause serious side effects.
What is the information for this topic?
Many products on the market keep away insects. The ones
that work the best contain the chemical diethyltoluamide, better known as DEET. DEET
has been used for over 40 years. It is very effective against bites by:
Neither DEET nor other repellents are able to deter stinging insects such
as bees, hornets, and wasps.
DEET is available in the U.S. in strengths ranging from 5% concentration
to 100%. It comes in a variety of forms, including:
For the most part, DEET has a very safe record. An estimated 200 million
people around the world use it every year without reported problems. But the chemical
is absorbed through the skin, so it can cause a toxic reaction if used in high doses. There
have been a few cases of neurologic problems in young children as a result of high
doses of DEET. For this reason:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children not use bug
repellents containing more than 10% DEET.
For most purposes, adults using insect repellent should choose concentrations
of 30% or less.
The amount of DEET can vary from one product to the next, so it is important to
read the label before choosing a bug repellent.
People should also be aware that:
Using DEET at the same time as a sunscreen
can prevent the sunscreen from working as well.
DEET can damage plastics, synthetic fabrics, leather, and painted surfaces, so it
should be applied carefully.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, called EPA, offers these guidelines for
the safe use of all types of insect repellents.
Apply to exposed skin or clothing only as the package directs. Do not apply repellent
Do not apply to cuts, wounds, or broken skin.
Keep out of the eyes and mouth. Use only small amounts around the ears. When
applying repellent to the face, spray it first into the hands, then rub onto the face.
Do not let children handle the repellent or get it on their hands. Adults should
apply it to children.
Do not spray in enclosed areas.
Use just enough to cover exposed skin. Avoid heavy application.
Wash with soap and water after returning indoors. This is especially important if
insect repellent is used day after day. Wash clothes that have been treated as well.
Stop use and call the poison control center if a reaction is suspected.