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DEET Use Recommendations for Schools

Insect repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide or N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) are the most effective mosquito repellents available. DEET insect repellents help reduce exposure to mosquito bites that may carry potentially serious viruses such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Mosquitoes can be active any time of day or night, although most species prefer dawn and dusk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that DEET be applied to children no more than once a day. Therefore, DEET insect repellent should be applied when the children are expected to spend the most time outdoors. For example, if a child spends more time outdoors during the morning hours, DEET insect repellent should be applied to the child by an adult before the child goes to school, following the guidelines listed below. If the child spends more time outdoors in the afternoon or evening, then DEET insect repellent should be applied to the child by an adult in the afternoon or evening, before the child goes outdoors.

Selection of DEET Insect Repellent Products

The concentration of DEET in products may range from less than 10 percent to over 30 percent. The maximum concentration currently recommended for infants two months and older and for children is 30 percent. No DEET products should be applied to infants under two months of age. The percentage of DEET determines the length of time the product is effective. Products with concentrations around 10 percent are effective for about two hours. Concentrations of 21 percent to 25 percent provide an average of five to eight hours of protection. These products provide longer protection and have been shown to be as safe as products with 10 percent DEET or less. The following list of products contain between 21 percent and 25 percent DEET and should provide five to eight hours of protection. (This is not a complete list of products containing between 21 percent and 25 percent DEET.)

Products that provide 5 to 8 hours of protection:

  • Backwoods Cutter Unscented Insect Repellent® (21.8% DEET or N,Ndiethyl-m-toluamide)
  • OFF! DEEPWOODS Unscented® (23.8% DEET or N,Ndiethyl-m-toluamide)
  • Bengal Insect Repellent® (25% DEET or N,Ndiethyl-m-toluamide)

Precautions While Using DEET Insect Repellents

A person's chances of experiencing adverse health effects from using DEET insect repellents are low if the following precautions are followed.

  • Do not apply to infants under two months of age.
  • Do not use a product containing more than 30 percent DEET for children.
  • DEET-containing sunscreen products should not be used. Sunscreens often are applied repeatedly because they are washed off. Unlike sunscreen, very little DEET would be washed off with water and will last for several hours. Repeated application of a DEET containing sunscreen product may increase the potential for toxic effects of DEET.
  • Read and follow all directions and precautions on the product label.
  • Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label). Do not use under clothing.
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • 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 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 spray in enclosed areas. Avoid breathing a repellent spray and do not use it near food.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy application and saturation is generally unnecessary for effectiveness. If biting insects are not repelled by a thin film of repellent, then apply a bit more.
  • 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.
  • If you suspect that you or your child is reacting to an insect repellent, discontinue use, wash treated skin, and then call the Carolinas Poison Center 24-hour help line at 1-800-222-1222. If you go to a doctor, take the repellent with you.
  • Get specific medical information about the active ingredients in repellents and other pesticides by calling the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) at 1-800-858-7378 or emailing NPIC operates from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time (6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time), 7 days a week. The NPIC Web site is: External link.

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