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Insect Repellents Help Avoid Lyme Disease

Using insect repellents can help you avoid tick bites and greatly reduce your risk of Lyme disease. Follow these guidelines when choosing and applying insect repellent:

  • Choose products containing DEET (diethyltoluamide), a powerful chemical that may help repel ticks. Products are available that contain various concentrations of DEET.
    • Lower concentrations are fine if your risk of exposure to ticks is low.
    • Higher concentrations should be used if you will be in an area known to be infested with ticks.
    • The higher the concentration of DEET, the longer you will be protected.
    • Higher concentrations can sometimes be harmful (toxic), especially to infants and small children.
  • Follow product directions carefully.
  • Apply repellent only to areas of skin that are not covered by clothing.
    • When applying repellent to the area around the eyes and mouth, put a little bit of the product on your hand and then rub it on your skin.
    • Higher concentrations of DEET can in rare cases be harmful. Do not put DEET on small children's hands, as they are likely to put their hands in their mouths.
    • Do not spray repellents directly onto your face, and avoid getting them in your mouth and eyes.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water. This is especially important if you have reapplied tick repellent several times or if you have used it for several days in a row.
  • Repellents are safer, especially for children and pregnant women, when applied on clothes, not skin.
  • In some states, insect repellents containing permethrin, a strong chemical that kills ticks on contact, are available. Permethrin can be put on clothes (especially pants, socks, and shoes) before exposure to ticks occurs. Avoid putting products containing permethrin on your skin.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christine Hahn, MD - Epidemiology
Last Revised August 31, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 31, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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