Insect RepellentsJuly 3, 2013
No one appreciates being bitten by mosquitoes, and with West Nile Virus (transmitted via mosquitoes) on the rise, avoiding mosquito bites is all the more relevant.
There are multiple types of insect repellents available – some are made from chemicals and some have natural ingredients, but don’t forget about other actions you can take to avoid these pests.
- Mosquitoes breed in standing water so be sure to prevent water from pooling near your home.
- Mosquitoes are more likely to bite during dusk so taking measures to stay inside during these peak hours or using repellents during these hours makes good sense.
- Dressing in long pants, long sleeved shirts and a trusty hat are good barriers to bites.
- Keep door and window screens in good repair.
- Mosquito netting may be used over baby carriers or strollers in areas where your baby may be exposed to insects.
How Do Mosquito Repellents Work?
These agents primarily work by the odor they create which I like to call the “stinky
rule”. Remembering this premise is essential when using these products.
Contrary to popular opinion, you do not only apply the product to exposed skin.
Remember the “stinky rule” and apply the repellent to your child’s clothing, hat,
and shoes, and you will need a lot less for their exposed skin. One trick I used
when my children were very young was to apply the repellent generously to my
clothing and hat so I would function as a stinky deterrent to these pests. This
way, I ended up using a lot less repellent on my kids.
More About Repellents
Products containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) have been shown
to be the best repellents. The concentration of DEET ranges between 10% and
30%. The more DEET, the longer the repellent property lasts. The American
Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents should contain no more than
30% DEET when used on children and they should not be used for children
under 2 months of age.
Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and soybean oil are other options. These
products are believed to be as powerful as 10% DEET in repelling mosquitoes.
The following are not effective repellents: wristbands soaked in chemical
repellents, garlic, ultrasonic devices, and backyard bug zappers.
Tips for Using Repellents Safely
What to do:
- Read the label and follow all directions and precautions.
- Only apply insect repellents on the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin.
- Spray repellents in open areas to avoid inhaling them.
- Use only enough repellent to cover your child’s clothing and exposed skin.
- Using more doesn’t make the repellent more effective. Avoid reapplying unless needed.
- Help apply insect repellent on young children. Supervise older children when using these products.
- Wash your children’s skin with soap and water to remove any repellent when they return indoors, and wash their clothing before they wear it again.
What not to do:
- Never apply insect repellent to children younger than 2 months
- Never spray insect repellent directly onto your child’s face. Instead, spray a little on your hands first and then rub it on your child’s face. Avoid the eyes and mouth.
- Do not spray insect repellent on cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- Do not use products that combine DEET with sunscreen. The DEET may make the sun protection factor (SPF) less effective. These products can overexpose your child to DEET because the sunscreen needs to be reapplied often.
Here’s to a safe and enjoyable summer!
Dr. Chris Chaiviello