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DEET alternatives

first_imgBy Elmer GrayUniversity of GeorgiaIn mosquito repellents, the longtime standard DEET(N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is still the most effective. However,the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently added twonew active ingredients to their guidelines.The CDC now accepts picaridin, or KBR 3023, and p-menthane3,8-diol (PMD), or oil of lemon eucalyptus, as viablealternatives for people who object to using DEET.Both of these new active ingredients have been used in Europe andAustralia for a few years. It should be noted that oil of lemoneucalyptus should not be used on children under age 3.A word of caution about “natural” products: Often they’re basedon oils distilled and concentrated from plants. Usually theseoils have evolved to help defend a plant from insect feeding.When they’re concentrated and refined, they can be toxic andirritating. As a result, “natural” doesn’t always mean “safe.”Safe for kidsBoth the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics sayrepellents containing 10-percent and 30-percent DEET appear to beequally safe for children over 2 months old.Parents should use lower concentrations on children if possible.At 10 percent, DEET is typically effective for 2 hours. At 30percent, it’s effective about 5 hours. Use higher concentrations(up to 30 percent for children) only when extended exposures areexpected.As with any repellent or insecticide, though, it’s critical toread the label and apply only as directed. The most importantaspect concerning children and repellents is for adults to applywhatever is used.When applying repellents in general, apply them only to parts ofthe body that are exposed to mosquitoes. Don’t apply anyrepellent to skin that will be covered by clothing. Don’t apply arepellent to sunburned, irritated, cut or abraded skin, either,or to the mouth or eyes.Be carefulWhen applying repellent to your face, put it on your hands andthen rub it over your face. Use this technique on children ingeneral. And after leaving the mosquito-infested area, wash alltreated skin with warm, soapy water.The risk of being bitten by a mosquito carrying a disease of anytype is extremely small. But never underestimate the dangers ofmosquito-borne diseases. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)is extremely serious and debilitating, no matter what version youget (West Nile virus, Eastern Equine, LaCrosse).The best ways to limit exposure to mosquito populations are: Wear light-colored, protective clothes.Keep screens repaired.Wear insect repellents when exposed to mosquitoes.Eliminating all standing water around your home andneighborhood can greatly reduce the number of mosquitoes, too.Using common sense, minimizing your exposure to mosquitoes,eliminating standing water and following label directions onrepellents can help you have a safe and enjoyable summer.(Elmer Gray is an Extension Service entomologist for theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences.)last_img read more