Insect Repellents

Using Insect Repellents Safely
Always follow manufactures' instructions when applying insect repellent to exposed skin and or clothing.

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) compiled the following list of precautions to follow when using insect repellents:
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also, wash treated clothing before wearing it again.
  • Do not allow children to handle the products, and do not apply to children's hands. When using on children, apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
  • Do not apply to eyes and mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using sprays do not spray directly onto face; spray on hands first and then apply to face.
  • Do not spray in enclosed areas. Avoid breathing a repellent spray, and do not use it near food.
  • If using DEET-containing products, The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that DEET not be used on children less than 2 months of age. The concentration of DEET in products may range from less than 10% to over 30%. The efficacy of DEET plateaus at a concentration of 30%, the maximum concentration currently recommended for infants and children. The major difference in the efficacy of products relates to their duration of action. Products with concentrations around 10% are effective for periods of approximately two hours. As the concentration of DEET increases, the duration of activity increases; for example, a concentration of about 24% has been shown to provide an average of 5 hours of protection. A prudent approach would be to select the lowest concentration effective for the amount of time spent outdoors. It is generally agreed that DEET should not be applied more than once a day.
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy application and saturation is generally unnecessary for effectiveness. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, then apply a bit more.
Additional Precautions
  • Apply DEET sparingly on exposed skin; do not use under clothing.
  • Avoid spraying in enclosed areas. Do not use DEET near food.
  • Do not allow children to handle the product. When using on children, apply to your own hands first and then put it on the child.
  • Do not use DEET on the hands of young children. Avoid applying to areas around the eyes and mouth.
  • Do not use DEET over cuts, wounds or irritated skin. Wash treated skin with soap and water after returning indoors; wash treated clothing.
Reactions to Repellent
If you suspect that you or your child are reacting to an insect repellent, discontinue use, wash treated skin, and then call your local poison control center at 800-222-1222. If you go to a doctor, take the repellent with you.

Please contact the National Pesticide Information Center for further details on the use of insect repellents by calling 800-858-7378.

Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label). Do not use under clothing.