Insect Repellent Hazards

Lawn chairs, barbecue, potato salad, horseshoes, summertime in Texas…what do these all have in common? Bugs. Welcome to Texas – home of the hungry bugs. Gnats, mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks are the most common summertime pests. There are several insect repellents available, but the most commonly used repellents contain n,n-diethyl-m-toluamide or DEET for short. It is found in sprays, liquids, lotions, gels and solid sticks. All of these products are effective, but the most important thing to remember: How old is the person using the product? Some liquids can contain 100 percent DEET, while some are as low as four or five percent. A young child often does not need as strong of a product as an adult, and some adult preparations can actually be too toxic to use on a child. A good rule of thumb is to purchase a product whose label says it is a formula for children.

Once you have chosen the appropriate product, you need to know how to use it. Follow the label directions carefully. Most can be applied directly to the skin, but in some cases should be applied only to clothing. If you are applying to skin, apply only enough to cover the skin in a thin layer — more is not better. Wash your hands after applying insect repellents to avoid getting them into the eyes or mouth. If the product is to be sprayed on clothing, be sure to carefully read the label — DEET cannot be used on some fabrics, and might ruin the clothing. Insect repellents should never be sprayed onto the face — it is better to spray or apply to your hands, then spread the product carefully onto your face or the child's. For infants and small children, it is always better to apply the product to your hands and then spread the product onto the child's skin. Be sure to bathe or wash skin immediately after coming inside, to avoid prolonged contact with skin.

If you are accidentally exposed to an insect repellent, wash the skin or flush the eyes with water and contact the Poison Center at 800-222-1222. If an accidental ingestion occurs, contact the poison center immediately.


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