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Summer Series: All about insect repellent: By Allison Landoll, DO
July 21, 2017

Warm summer evenings should be filled with pool time, biking, campfires and family fun, but this comes at the risk of mosquito, tick, and other insect bites. Ohio sees an increase in insect bites from May to October, when the insects are most active. Of the 59 mosquito species native to Ohio, only a few can transmit disease, which makes most bites merely a nuisance and not usually a problem. However, because there is a low risk of serious problems due to bites (such as allergic reactions and rare serious diseases), it is important to take preventive measures to protect your children against them.


The best defense against insect bites is a product containing DEET. The amount of DEET in insect repellents varies from about 10% to more than 30%; products containing around 10% repel insects for about 2 hours, while products with 24-30% last about 5 hours. Studies have shown that DEET concentration greater than 30% does not offer any additional benefit, thus is it best to buy a repellent that contains 30% or less.  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no child use a product containing more than 30% DEET. This compound has been shown to be safe in infants as young as two months. If you are pregnant, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has found DEET to be safe, regardless of trimester.


A reasonable alternative to DEET are repellents made of picaridin and repellents with oil of lemon eucalyptus. These products have been shown to have a duration of action comparable to that of about 10% DEET. While they are considered safe alternatives to DEET, they have been less studied; it is unknown how well they repel ticks, for example. Additionally, while rare, there is a slightly higher risk of allergic reactions when using repellents made from essential oils.


When applying repellents to your child:

·         Only apply repellent to children 2 months and older.

·         Apply to the outside of clothing and on exposed skin. Use just enough to cover these areas. Using more does not make the repellent more effective. It is not necessary to reapply often.

·         To apply to the face: spray a little on your hands and rub into your child’s face, avoiding the eyes and mouth.

·         Spray in an open area to ventilate well.

·         Wash off with soap and water when your child is finished playing outside.

·         Do not use products that combine DEET with sunscreen, as the DEET can make the SPF less effective.

If you have used one of these products and are concerned that your child is having a reaction, such as a rash, to the repellent, stop use of the product and wash the skin with soap and water. Then call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222, or call your doctor.


Dr. Allison Landoll is a pediatrician at Madison Health Primary Care in London. To make an appointment, please call 740-845-7500.  The practice is currently accepting new patients.

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Madison County Hospital
210 North Main Street
London, Ohio 43140
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