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Botsford HealthSource Magazine
DEET Outlasts Other Mosquito Repellents
Understandably, many parents are wary of spraying a chemical like N, N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide—better known as DEET—on themselves and their children. But after decades of scrutiny, experts are declaring that DEET is safe—and the best at keeping away mosquitoes.
DEET Places First, Eucalyptus Takes Second
One study compared widely available chemical and natural insect repellents containing one of the following ingredients:
- DEET, in concentrations from 4.75 to 23.8 percent
- Eucalyptus oil
- Soybean oil, 2 percent
- IR3535, 7.5 percent
- Citronella, in concentrations from 0.1 to 25 percent
Of all the products, the DEET-based ones guarded adults from mosquito bites the longest. Protection time increased with DEET concentrations. For example, DEET 4.75 percent lasted about 1.5 hours. DEET 23.8 percent gave around five hours of protection.
Two natural repellents provided the best mosquito defense after DEET. The eucalyptus oil product kept adults bite-free for about two hours. The soy-based repellent guarded them for 1.5 hours. The remaining repellents offered protection for only about 22 minutes or less.
Deal with DEET Correctly
Many experts say DEET is safe when used properly. Here are some general points to remember:
- Pick a concentration that will last for as long as you think you’ll be outside. But remember: DEET concentrations higher than 30 percent do not provide extended periods of protection.
- Stick to a product with 30 percent or less DEET on children ages 2 months and older. Avoid using DEET on infants younger than 2 months.
- Use only enough repellent to cover your clothing and exposed skin. To protect your face, put some insect repellent on your hands and rub it on. Avoid eyes, mouth, cuts and skin irritations.
- Reapply DEET if you sweat heavily, get wet or if you are being bitten by mosquitoes.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water. Also, launder any clothes that you sprayed.