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Pediatric & Medical Associates, pc

New Haven, CT
Cheshire, CT

Insect Repellents

Welcome to summer!! Each year, along with all the summer fun, comes the nuisance of those pesky mosquitoes and ticks. And every summer we are faced with the same question: which insect repellents work best and are safe to use on our children?

DEET (N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, for you chemists out there) was the first insect repellent introduced to the public and has been widely used for years.  DEET is available in multiple concentrations and may be used in children greater than 2 months of age.  When choosing a concentration, keep in mind the length of time you’ll be outdoors, and use the lowest concentration that will provide adequate protection. For example, a product containing 20% DEET will provide almost 4 hours of protection whereas a product containing 4.75% DEET will  provide 1 ½ hours of protection. Products up to 30% DEET are considered safe to use on children. Some common brands include: Off! Deep Woods (25% DEET) and Off! Skintastic (4.75% DEET). The disadvantage of DEET is that it may be toxic if accidently ingested or applied at too high a concentration. For this reason, DEET should not be reapplied.

One of the newer insect repellents now available is Picaridin (KBR3023), which appears to be as effective as DEET, while being less toxic.  It also is nearly odorless and leaves less of a residue on the skin and clothing. Depending upon the concentration, Picaridin has been shown to be effective for 3-8 hours. Two brand names which contain Picaridin are: Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent and Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin.

Permethrin is another repellent that has been available for years, and because it is an insecticide, it is another choice when attempting to avoid ticks and mosquitoes.  It is not meant to be applied directly to skin, but is recommended for use on clothing, shoes and camping gear. Some clothing brands come with Permethrin already embedded in the fabric. Keep in mind that the best method for preventing tick-born illness is by a thorough nightly “tick check.”  

Lastly, when applying insect repellents, remember these general tips:

When choosing an insect repellent it is always important to read the product label and follow the recommendations.
Only apply to exposed skin (not under clothing).
Do not spray young children’s hands as they often put them in their mouth.
Do not apply to wounds or irritated skin.
Wash off nightly with soap & water.
Avoid products that combine sunscreen and DEET, because they typically don’t need to be reapplied at the same frequency. When using both products, apply sun screen first, followed by repellent.
And finally, although Citronella is a commonly used product, it has been shown to have very little efficacy either as a lotion or candle.

Now, get out there and enjoy the outdoors!!

updated: 7 years ago