Choosing and Using Insect Repellents

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July 10, 2018
Choosing and Using Insect Repellents

Summer is finally in full swing and as much as we love the warmth and sunshine, we are not a fan of insect bites! They are itchy and uncomfortable. Plus, insect bites can spread diseases like West Nile or Zika viruses (mosquitos) and Lyme (ticks).

How Should I Choose an Insect Repellent?

Choose a repellent based on the amount of time you need protection. How long a product works depends on the concentration of the active ingredient. Higher concentrations last longer. Check the label to find out how long the repellent will work for when it’s used correctly.

Here are the best ingredients to look for:

  • DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N, N-diethyl-3-methyl-benzamide)
  • Picaridin (known as Icaridin in Canada)
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (p-menthane-3, 8-diol or PMD)
  • IR3535

Always read and closely follow the directions on labels of insect repellents.

Avoid products that have both sunscreen and insect repellent. Sunscreens should be applied more often and more liberally than insect repellents. If you need both, use separate products. Put the sunscreen on first.

Is DEET Safe?

DEET is sage when directions on the label are followed. DEET can cause skin rashes, but rarely. Keep in mind that there’s not much benefit to using a product with over 50% DEET.

Which Insect Repellent Can Be Used on Children and During Pregnancy?

Health Canada says that most insect repellents can be used on children over six months of age. You should use a product with no more than 10% DEET on children six months to 12 years. Oil of lemon eucalyptus shouldn’t be used on those younger than three years. Double-check the label to make sure an insect repellent is okay to use on your child. The insect repellents DEET, picaridin, IR 3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus are safe to use during pregnancy and while breast feeding, when used a directed.

Tips for Safe Use of Insect Repellents

  • Don’t use repellents under clothing, or on cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
  • Don’t apply repellents to eyes or mouth. Apply lightly around ears.
  • Don’t spray repellents on the face. Spray on hands first, then apply to the face.
  • Don’t allow kids to handle repellents. Apply repellent to your own hands, then put it on the child.
  • Avoid heavy application of repellents. If a thin film doesn’t work, apply a bit more.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
  • Never put permethrin on skin. Apply permethrin only to clothing, bed nets or other fabrics.
  • Don’t apply insect repellent to cats or dogs. Talk to you vet about options for pets.