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Americans Ignoring Mosquito-Bite Risk

60% of U.S. Not Using Bug Repellent; 'What, Me Worry?' Attitude Cited

New Repellents Available continued...

"These additional products are for short-term exposure -- if you're in the backyard for a couple of hours --- although a stronger version of picaridin should be available in the future," Zielinski-Gutierrez says. "You can use them in the same situation as the family-style DEET products. Neither of these new products are go-canoeing-in-the-swamp kind of products."

Some, however, may prefer the new products. The picaridin product has little odor. The oil-of-lemon eucalyptus product has a strong odor that some may find less obnoxious than DEET. However, it is NOT approved for children under the age of 3 years (and NO repellent is safe for children younger than 2 months of age).

What About Kids?

Some parents worry about using DEET on children. James R. Roberts, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina, recently reviewed the new products for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"I don't know if the new products are safer for children than DEET -- they have been on the market a lot less time," Roberts tells WebMD. "Animal studies showed only minor toxicities."

For his own kids, Roberts still uses DEET.

"I personally use DEET on my children, the 10% to 20% strengths," he says. "The most important thing is to just apply it once a day. I do tell parents to wash it off the kids at night. I definitely recommend to my patients and students that they wash it off their kids as soon as they come indoors. And don't apply it to kids' hands, because those hands go straight to their mouths and eyes."

There's also evidence that sunscreen may increase the body's absorption of insect repellent.

"I don't recommend using mosquito repellent with sunscreen," Roberts says. "Sunscreen needs to be reapplied after swimming. And you don't want to reapply the repellent."

Recommended Precautions for Repellents

The EPA's full list of precautions to take with mosquito repellents:

  • Apply only to exposed skin.
  • Never apply under clothing.
  • Do not apply to the eyes or mouth.
  • Use only sparingly around ears.
  • When using spray product, do not spray the face. Spray product on the hands, and apply to face.
  • Do not allow children to handle the products.
  • Do not spray in enclosed areas or around food.
  • Use only enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Saturation is not necessary. If a thin film isn't working, use just a little more.
  • Wash repellent off when coming indoors.
  • Wash repellent-treated clothing before wearing again.
  • If you think you or a child is having a reaction to a repellent, wash the treated skin and call a local poison control center. If you go to a doctor, take the repellent with you.
  • Always read the product label before using a repellent.

"I am a new mommy, and it is a whole new world of worry," Zielinski-Gutierrez says. "I do so many things to make sure the baby is fine. I would feel terrible if I didn't take care of myself and got disabled because of a mosquito bite. So I spray the whole family before we go out on walks every evening. I don't want to omit a simple behavior that could prevent risk to my whole family.'


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