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Q and A About Insect Repellents and Protecting Children From Insect Bites

Insect Repellents
 
Insect Repellents
Janet Knodel, Ph.D., Extension Entomologist and Associate Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, NDSU

Several biting insects, such as mosquitoes and flies, can reduce your fun and time spent outdoors in the summer. Some of these insects carry problematic diseases, including West Nile virus, and can be a threat to your health if you do not use adequate precautions. Using insect repellents properly can help protect you and your children from insect bites and serious diseases.

Q: How do you properly use insect repellents?

Dos:

  • Always read, understand and follow the label directions.
  • Apply repellent to exposed clothing/skin.
  • For your face, apply spray repellent to your hands first and then apply it to your face.
  • Always supervise the application on children.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin and clothes with soap and water.
  • Store repellents safely out of the reach of children.
  • If you have an allergic reaction to any insect repellent, stop using the product and wash your skin with soap and water. If the reaction continues, immediately call your doctor or the Poison Center at (800) 222-1222 for help.

Dont’s:

  • Never apply repellent to children younger than 2 months.
  • Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands because children often put their hands in their mouth or eyes.
  • Never apply repellents to open cuts or irritated skin.
  • Never use repellents around any food.
  • Avoid breathing repellents when spraying. Spray only in well-ventilated areas.
  • Do not use on animals, such as pets, unless the product label clearly states that it can be used on animals.
  • Do not use products that combine insect repellents with sunscreen. Sunscreens need to be applied frequently while insect repellents should be applied sparingly. Insect repellents (for example, DEET) can reduce the sun protection factor (SPF) by one-third.

Q: What types of products provide the best protection against biting insects?

For skin application, insect repellents come in many forms, including aerosol or spray-pumps,liquid, cream, lotion and stick
products. In general, products with low concentrations of active ingredients have shorter protection times and should be used for situations with minimal insect exposure. Products with high concentrations of active ingredients have longer protection times and should be used in areas with many biting insects and when you are outside for long periods.

Q: What repellent products are available for use on children?

Repellent products

Q: What are other ways to avoid insect bites and protect your child?

Preventing your child from getting any insect bites is impossible; however, you can reduce the chances of your child getting bitten by following these guidelines:

  • Avoid high-risk areas that are attractive to biting insects, such as stagnant pools of water where mosquitoes live and reproduce, or garbage cans where biting flies live and reproduce.
  • When temperatures are not too hot, have your child wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, socks and closed shoes.
  • Use insect netting over strollers or play pens.
  • Avoid wearing bright colors or flowery prints that are attractive to biting insects.
  • Don’t use perfume or other scents that attract biting insects.
  • Repair any holes in window/door screens to prevent insects from getting into your home.
  • Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

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