The bottom line: Potential complications of insect repellents, whether chemical or natural, are better than the potential complications of a bite from the wrong insect. Lyme disease and West Nile virus are no longer uncommon. They can each result in a series of acute symptoms and West Nile can even cause death. I am not trying to be dramatic here, but the worst data on DEET doesn't hold a candle to the worst data on West Nile or Lyme.
• If you choose to use DEET, only apply it to exposed skin. On a hot summer day, this typically means the arms and legs. Any skin that is already covered with clothing is sufficiently well protected. In order to reduce any risk of DEET reaction, the less you use on your body, the better.
• Protect yourself with clothing and common sense. Wear long sleeves and long pants when the temperatures permit. On very hot days, the risk of overheating, heat stroke or dehydration is not worth the clothing coverage. Don't go into insect-ridden areas if you don't need to. Mosquitoes are known to buzz around and bite at dawn, dusk, and after nightfall. If you are in a mosquito-infested area, avoid outdoor activities at those times.
• Don't use a combination sunscreen/insect repellent. The problem with these products is that the sunscreen needs to be reapplied every 1-2 hours while the insect repellent doesn't. As a result, most people either don't get enough sunscreen (because they don't reapply) or they get too much repellent.
• Check yourself and your children for ticks each day if you live in (or are visiting) a tick-infested area. According to the CDC, a tick must be attached to a human for at least 36 hours before Borriela burgdorfieri (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) can be transmitted. If you do find a tick, pull it off with a tweezers and clean the area with a topical antiseptic.
Do you use bug spray on your kids?
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||Dr. Cara Natterson, author of Your Toddler: Head To Toe, is a pediatrician and mother of 2. To buy a copy, click here. She is currently working on the forthcoming book entitled Dangerous or Safe?