A: Insect repellents provide protection from biting insects such as mosquitoes, fleas and ticks, but offer no protection from their stinging friends such as wasps, hornets and bees. Many products contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) ranging in concentrations from 4 to 100. Concentrations of DEET less than 30 percent are preferable for children, but the use on children younger than 2 months is not recommended. It generally should not be applied more frequently than every four to eight hours. Extended release formulations allow for longer protection with lower concentration. Look to the product label, or ask your local pharmacist or medical provider for specific questions or concerns.
Alternative products include citronella, lemon eucalyptus oil, soybean oil, cedar oil, lavender oil, tea tree oil, garlic, thiamin and scented moisturizers in mineral oil. Repellents containing permethrin are designed only for clothing application and are not to be used on the skin. Picaridin is an alternative that has gained popularity due to the fact that it causes less skin irritation than DEET.
The environmental protection agency (EPA) concluded that when labeling directions are followed there is a low risk for DEET toxicity. DEET-related products are considered safe for women pregnant or breastfeeding. Skin irritation is the most common DEET-related problem. For safe application follow label direction, do not apply over cuts/wounds, do not apply to hands or near eyes/mouth of young children, avoid over application, wash skin/clothes when protection is no longer needed, and to apply to face spray on hands first then rub on face.
Information provided by Hammer Pharmacy, 600 E. Grand Ave., East Village, 243-4177.