Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Men's Health

Font Size

How to Be Repellent -- to Bugs

Want to avoid bug bites this year? Get them before they get you.

WebMD Feature

You're lying in your tent and you hear that high-pitched drilling noise, tiny at first, then louder, louder. Mosquitoes! Is there anything more annoying? Well, how about ticks? Or those insane no-see-ums? Sssh, don't tell, but bugs outnumber humans gazillions to one and are only letting us live here.

 

Recommended Related to Men

Top Men's Health Stories of 2007: Readers' Choice

Male enhancement, men's top sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and sex myths attracted a lot of attention in 2007 from WebMD users interested in men's health. Here is the list of the 10 most viewed men's health stories on WebMD in 2007. Male Enhancement: Is It Worth a Try? Enlarged Prostate: A Complex Problem Ubersexual: The New Masculine Ideal? Overcoming Ejaculation Problems Men's Top 5 Health Concerns Sex: Fact an...

Read the Top Men's Health Stories of 2007: Readers' Choice article > >

In recent years, however, these aggravating little monsters have become downright dangerous, spreading serious diseases in many parts of the country. According to the CDC, more than 20,000 cases of insect-related illnesses are confirmed each year.

 

West Nile virus has slowly been making its way across the country since its arrival in the U.S. in 1999. Unfortunate campers and residents in many parts of the Northeast trail IV poles as they undergo long-term antibiotic treatment for tick-borne Lyme disease. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which also is tick-borne, has climbed down from the Rockies.

It's war!

Keeping insects at bay is a battle fought on several fronts. First, you can try to get them before they get you. This is the philosophy behind community spraying efforts, which often end up bathing humans in insecticide, killing beneficial insects, and leaving many fertile, harmful insects left to fight again. At very least, though, you could drain standing water in your yard so mosquitoes won't breed in it.

 

People also apply insecticides to themselves or their clothing. One such, permethrin, is sold in a number of products, including Permanone (check labels). The CDC recommends applying this to clothing, not skin.

 

Even the most popular "skin" insecticide, DEET -- used as a repellent by one-third of the population in the United States -- must be used with extreme caution. A study done at Duke University and published in the November 2001 Journal of Experimental Neurology showed that frequent and prolonged applications of DEET (in an average human dose adjusted to rat size) caused neurons to die in regions of rat brains that control muscle movement, learning, memory, and concentration.

 

"The rats didn't look any different," says lead researcher Mohamed Abou-Donia, PhD, professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke, "but when we challenged them with a task, they failed."

 

Abou-Donia became interested in this subject while studying veterans who used DEET in concentrations of 70% and in concert with permethrin (not recommended, by the way). "We think part of the problem experienced by some vets may be due to DEET," says Abou-Donia, referring to Gulf War veterans' illness.

If You Must Use DEET

In Canada, DEET concentrations cannot exceed 30%. Here, hundreds of products, some containing 100% DEET, are on the shelves. Abou-Donia and Ken Holscher, PhD, an associate professor of entomology at Iowa State University, urge extreme caution in using DEET.

 

  • Use products containing DEET in low concentrations only (30% or less for adults, 10% or less for children)
  • Never apply DEET products to infants under 2 years old
  • Even for older children, be very careful and apply sparingly, if at all. ("I shudder when I see people having their kid stand there with his arms out while they spray and spray him," Holscher says. "You don't want to breathe this stuff, either.")
  • Apply it by hand, not spray. Put on your own hands, not the child's, and wash afterward.
  • Don't apply to eyes or lips
  • Never apply to wounds
  • Don't use DEET or even spray your yard if you are taking medications. (There are few studies on interactions, Abou-Donia says, and those interactions can be serious).

Today on WebMD

Life Cycle of a Penis
Slideshow
Preacher Curl
Slideshow
 
testosterone molecule
Article
Xray of foot highlighting gout
Slideshow
 
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Slideshow
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Quiz
 
Man taking blood pressure
Slideshow
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 
Condom Quiz
Quiz
thumbnail_angry_couple_in_bed
Slideshow
 
man running
Quiz
older couple in bed
Video