decide to use any kind of repellent, carefully read and follow all
label directions before each use. On the labels, you will find
important information about how to apply the repellent, whether it
can be applied to skin and/or clothing, special instructions for
children, hazards to humans, physical or chemical hazards and
first aid. Using any of these repellents is not without risk of
adverse reactions, especially if used in large amounts or
Products labeled as insect repellents are regulated by
the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New
York State, and are tested for toxicity and effectiveness.
The EPA does not require that all botanical repellents be
tested or registered before their sale and use. The active
ingredients for all products should be stated on the
labels. Regardless of which repellent product you use,
carefully read and follow all directions on the label
before each use.
Children, Pregnant Women and Repellants
Children may be at greater risk
for adverse reactions to repellents, in part,
because their exposure may be greater.
Keep repellents out of the reach
Do not allow children to apply
Use only small amounts of
repellent on children.
Do not apply repellents to the
hands of young children because this may result
in accidental eye contact or ingestion.
Try to reduce the use of
repellents by dressing children in long sleeves
and long pants tucked into boots or socks
As with chemical exposures in general, pregnant women should
take care to avoid exposures to repellents when practical, as the
fetus may be vulnerable.
Deet and Botanical Products
The amount of repellent you may be exposed
to depends on:
The concentration in the product
The amount of the product put on
In what form the product is
How carefully and how often the
product is applied
The greater your exposure to the repellent, the greater
the risk of health effects.
DEET products have been widely used for many years but
these products have occasionally been associated with some
adverse reactions. DEET concentrations range from a low of
about five percent up to 100 percent. Skin reasons
(particularly at DEET concentrations of 50 percent and
above) and eye irritation have been the most
frequently reported adverse effects. There have been some
reports of central nervous system problems, more frequently
reported in children than adults, ranging from slurred
speech and confusion to seizures and coma. The
use of DEET products primarily results in exposure from skin
contact, although unintentional exposure by breathing and
ingestion can also occur.
By using products with lower concentrations of DEET and
by applying as little of the product as needed for your
outdoor activities, you can reduce your exposure to DEET.
Things to consider when
choosing a repellent:
The type of
pests present - ticks, mosquitoes, etc.
The numbers and activity of
Where you are going - swamp,
Whether the area has pests
How long you will be in
Your tendency to be bitten.
Whether you're treating adults or children.
Less information is available on DEET's effectiveness in
repelling ticks although some data suggest that ticks may be
more difficult to repel than mosquitos. Products containing
higher concentrations of DEET or those with
controlled-release formulations (a controlled-release
product extends protection time from insects by regulating
its release) may be useful when in areas with high
populations of ticks for long periods of
time. Skin reactions have been associated with higher
concentration products (particularly at DEET concentrations
of 50 percent and above).
Under demanding conditions, a two-part approach has been
used to help protect people from ticks and other biting
insects. The approach uses a repellent product containing
about 33 percent DEET in a controlled-release formulation on
exposed skin along with clothing treated with permethrin.
(See "Permethrin Repellents"). This may meet the
needs of individuals spending long periods of time in areas
with high populations of active ticks or mosquitoes.
Information about DEET's effectiveness in repelling
insects comes from laboratory and field experiments.
The data are not completely consistent about how long DEET
is effective or how completely it prevents insect bites. In
general, the more concentrated the DEET product, the more
protection (reduction of bites and length of this reduction)
is provided. Also, in general, the more DEET exposure, the
greater your risk of experiencing adverse effects. To reduce
your risk of adverse effects while maintaining sufficient
protection, you should use as little DEET as necessary for
Proper Use of Deet Products
with children, try to reduce the use of repellents by
dressing them in long sleeves and long pants tucked into
socks or boots when possible or by applying repellent to
clothing instead of skin. Use repellents only in small
amounts, avoiding unnecessary repeat applications.
Do not apply repellents
directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then
put it on the child.
Do not apply near eyes, nose
or mouth and use sparingly around ears. Do not apply to
the hands of small children because this may result in
accidental eye contact or ingestion.
Avoid use of DEET products on
skin damaged by sunburn, cuts, rashes or other skin
conditions, such as psoriasis or acne.
Particular care should be
taken to avoid breathing in DEET when applying products,
especially spray products. Do not apply repellents in
enclosed areas or directly on the face (products can be
applied to hands and then rubbed on the face).
Do not use sunscreens or
moisturizers that also contain DEET if the repellent is
Avoid prolonged and excessive
use of DEET products. Use just enough repellent to cover
exposed skin or clothing, and do not treat unexposed
skin (skin covered by clothing).
After returning indoors, wash
treated skin with soap and water.
DEET products can be applied
to clothing, but may damage some synthetic fabrics and
plastics, especially products with very high DEET
concentrations. Launder treated clothing separately from
Frequent reapplication or
saturation is unnecessary for effectiveness. Use only
what is required to maintain protection.
Insect repellent products
containing botanical (plant-based) oils, such as oil of
geranium, cedar, lemongrass, soy or citronella, are also
available. There is limited information on the effectiveness
of botanical oils individually and when combined with other
ingredients to make repellent products. Available
information, however, indicates that, compared to the
effectivness of DEET or permethrin, botanical oils generally
do not provide the same duration of protection.
Because many botanical oils are
regulated differently than DEET and permethrin, most have
not been tested for their potential to cause short- or
long-term toxic or reproductive effects, birth defects or
cancer. By following recommendations one through eight
listed above for the proper use of DEET products, you will
reduce your exposure and, hence, the risk of adverse health
effects when using botanical products.
permethrin are for use on clothing only - not on skin.
Permethrin kills ticks that come in contact with
treated clothes. It is effective for two weeks or more if
the clothing is not laundered.
There are some health concerns
associated with the use of permethrin repellents,
particularly if the products are not used according to the
label directions. They can cause eye irritation. In
addition, animal studies indicate that permethrin may have
some cancer causing potential. If used
properly, however, the potential for adverse reactions is
minimized. Some recommendations for proper use are:
TREAT CLOTHING ONLY - DO NOT
APPLY TO SKIN.
Read carefully and follow
manufacturer's recommendations for application.
If you accidentally get the product
on your skin, immediately wash with soap and water.
Apply to clothing in a
well-ventilated outdoor area, protected from wind.
Only spray permethrin repellents on
the outer surface of clothing and shoes before you put
them on - do not apply to clothing while it is being
worn. Only spray enough product to lightly moisten the
outer surface of the fabric causing a slight color
change or darkening; do not saturate clothing. Do not
exceed recommended spraying times. Pay special
attention while treating socks, trouser cuffs and
shirt cuffs to ensure proper coverage. Hang the
treated clothing outdoors and allow to dry for at
least two hours (four hours under humid conditions)
Do not treat clothing more than once
every two weeks. Launder treated clothing, separately
from other clothing, at least once before retreating.
Keep treated clothes in a separate
Those who frequent tick habitats
should consider having a set of clothes, preferably
long-sleeved shirt, pants and socks that are used only in
such settings. These clothes can be treated with a
permethrin-containing product according to the label
directions, worn only when needed, and then placed in a
separate bag when not in use. In hot weather, when
long-sleeved shirt and pants may be uncomfortable, pants and
jackets made of insect netting (either untreated or treated
with repellent) can be worn. Such clothes are available in
some sporting good stores and through outdoor equipment
If you suspect that you or a child is reacting to
a repellent, wash the skin that has been in contact with the
repellent, remove any treated clothing, and call your doctor
or local poison control center. If you go to the doctor,
take the repellent with you. Launder treated clothing,
separately from other clothing, before wearing again.
Repellents alone do not provide complete
protection against Lyme disease and other insect-borne
diseases. You should avoid areas with high populations of
ticks when possible, especially at peak biting
times; use protective clothing (light-colored, long-sleeved
shirts and long pants with bottoms tucked into boots or
socks); check yourself, your children and pets daily for
ticks; and seek prompt medical attention if disease symptoms