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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

This year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that two new kinds of mosquito repellents work as well as DEET, although for shorter periods of exposure.

One is picaridin. The other is a chemical extract called oil lemon eucalyptus.

"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."

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