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Choosing an Insect Repellent Su


									Choosing an Insect Repellent: Summer Safety Primer for Parents
By Vincent Iannelli, M.D., Guide ( Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the
Medical Review Board) Updated July 20, 2007 & Updated by Butte County Public Health April 2010

Parents often have problems choosing an insect repellent for their kids. Which repellent is most effective? Which is
safest to use on children? Fortunately, there are several good choices for today’s parents. The following information
summarizes four recommended repellents, and offers other suggestions on how to keep your family safe from the bites
of disease carrying mosquitoes this season.

   Avoiding Insect Bites:         Instead of, or in addition to, using insect repellents, there are many steps that you can
take to avoid insect bites. These protective measures include:
    •   dressing your kids in thin, loose-fitting, long-sleeve clothing that doesn't include bright colors
    •   encouraging your kids to wear socks and shoes instead of sandals
    •   avoiding spending time outdoors during evening to early morning hours (dusk to dawn)-- when mosquitoes bite
        the most
    •   avoiding scented soaps and other things that might attract mosquitoes and other bugs
    •   using a bug screen over your child's stroller
    •   preventing mosquitoes from breeding in your yard by draining all standing water
While long-sleeve clothing may not seem like a good option during the spring and summer because of the heat, it does
offer double protection against the sun and bugs. Thin, loose-fitting clothing, while not as protective as thicker clothing,
may help to make it more tolerable.

   Insect Repellents with DEET:              DEET is the active ingredient in many insect repellent products. It is used to
repel biting pests such as mosquitoes and ticks, including ticks that may carry Lyme disease. Products containing DEET
currently are available to the public in a variety of liquids, lotions, sprays, and impregnated materials (e.g., wrist bands).
Formulations registered for direct application to human skin contain from 4 to 100% DEET. Most experts agree that an
insect repellent with DEET is the best protection against mosquito bites and other insects. According to the label, DEET
should not be used on children under two months of age.
Keep in mind that insect repellents with higher DEET concentrations aren't necessarily stronger than those with lesser
concentrations-- they simply last longer. So although the EPA reports that "there is no restriction on the percentage of
DEET in the product for use on children," that doesn't mean that you should rush to use the highest form of DEET you
can find. If your child is only going to be outside for a couple of hours, you can use an insect repellent with less than 10%
DEET. Reserve insect repellents with higher concentrations of DEET for when your child is going to be outside for four or
five hours.

   DEET-Free Insect Repellents:            Although insect repellents with DEET work great and are safe to use on
children, there are still many parents who prefer DEET-free insect repellents.
Picaridin is another chemical ingredient found in repellents and is not a natural product. It is thought to be as effective
as DEET and can be another option for parents looking for an alternative to DEET to consider. Picaridin is a colorless,
nearly odorless liquid active ingredient that is used as an insect repellant against biting flies, mosquitoes, chiggers, and
ticks. Picaridin products were sold in Europe and Australia for several years before being introduced to the U.S. market
in 2005. Products contain a range of 5 to 20 percent of the active ingredient.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is found naturally in eucalyptus leaves and twigs. It was first registered in 1948 as an insecticide
and miticide (kills insects and mites) and today is found in both lotion and spray insect repellents. As with most plant
oils, no adverse effects to humans are expected. Products contain a range of 30 to 40 percent of the active ingredient.
Remember that, according to their labels, products with oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under
age three.
IR3535, also called Merck 3535, is used as an insect repellent against mosquitoes, deer ticks, and biting flies. This
biopesticide was registered as an active ingredient in 1999. Before it was registered with EPA, IR3535 had been used as
an insect repellent in Europe for 20 years with no significant harmful effects. Products contain a range of 7.5 to 20.07
percent of the active ingredient.

  What You Need To Know
    •   The AAP recommends that parents should not reapply insect repellents with DEET more than once a day.
    •   You should avoid products that combine a sunscreen and an insect repellent. The main problem with them is
        that sunscreens should be reapplied every few hours, while insect repellents should not. However, they may be
        a good option if you are sure that you will only be out for a few hours and you want the convenience of a single
    •   To be safe, only apply insect repellents to exposed skin. Do not apply it under clothing, on a child's hands, near
        the mouth or eyes, or over cuts and irritated skin. You can even apply the insect repellent to your hands first and
        then rub it on your child to avoid over-application.
    •   Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy application and saturation are generally
        unnecessary for effectiveness. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, then apply a bit more.
    •   Do not allow children to handle the product. When using on children, apply to your own hands first and then put
        it on the child. You may not want to apply to children’s hands.
    •   Wash off insect repellents once your child comes inside and will no longer be exposed to mosquitoes.
    •   If you or your child gets a rash or other bad reaction from an insect repellent, stop using the repellent, wash the
        repellent off with mild soap and water, and call a local poison control center for further guidance. If you go to a
        doctor because of the repellent, take the repellent with you to show the doctor.

What's the buzz? Be prepared to answer parents' questions about insect repellents. James R. Roberts, M.D., M.P.H.,
FAAP AAP News Vol. 28 No. 7 July 2007, p. 1
Follow safety precautions when using DEET on children. AAP Committee on Environmental Health - 2003.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Insect Repellent DEET
Comparative efficacy of insect repellents against mosquito bites. Fradin MS - N Engl J Med - 4-JUL-2002; 347(1): 13-8
DEET Alternatives Considered to be Effective Mosquito Repellents. AAP News - June, 2005

Questions about pesticides?

                            •   Active Ingredients Found in Insect Repellents
                            •   Contact: National Pesticide Information Center

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