Saturday, May 13, 2006


Do you know: What percent DEET is needed in insect repellents to be effective?

A. 7%
B. 20%
C. 30%
D. 98%
E. All of the above

Answer is: E. All of the above

What is DEET? DEET is N,N-diethylmetatoluamide which was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 for use by military personnel in insect-infested areas.

How does it work? It creates a vapor above the area of application as it evaporates which repels the insects.

Children should use the lowest dose effective which can be less than 10%, however, it may not stay on as long as the higher concentrations. See Bug Repellent Comparison.
DEET is not recommended for use in children less than 6 months old, and it should be considered for children up to 2 years old only if very high exposure to insects is expected. Avoid applying it to children's hands if they tend to put them in their mouths.

Adults may consider 30% concentration. Consumer Reports June 2006 concluded that 30% was needed for very good results.

Pregnant women should not use it.

Where is it applied? It should be applied to any exposed skin sparingly. Avoid using it around the eyes and mouth, and any open skin such as scratches and skins. Do not apply it under clothing. Wash your hands after applying it.

Alternative to DEET: Most experts agree that non-DEET containing repellents are not as effective. A panel in Consumer Reports June 2006 thought that Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus worked better than the other non-DEET products but they did not like its smell. This is also NOT recommended for use in children less than 3 years old.

For more information: see Insect Repellent Use and Safety.

References: Insect repellents: an overview, J Am Academy of Dermatology, 1997.
DEET-based insect repellents: safety implications, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2003. Dr. J. D. MacLean, McGill University
Photo: courtesy of


Anonymous said...

and to think aedes mosquitos kill in short period of time (dengue fever). here we have an incense thing that can be burnt slowly.

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Beth Danae said...

This is good to know. i think with the humid weather in HK I am bound to have more run-in's with Mosquitos.

luckluster said...

Those mosquitos are driving me crazy! Especially that asian tiger thing that got imported somehow to my country. Now I have asian tiger during daytime, and culex when I sleep...

I recall reading somewhere about someone who try to find what scents attract mosquitos. Now someone has to make a device which attracts mosquitos and then kills them. And please make it fast.

Tana said...

Dear Dr. Razavi,

Please forgive my lengthy intrusion here, but tomorrow I'm going to the doctor with this problem. Perhaps you could address it to help others.

Our little grandson, who is two-and-a-half (and tall for his age), is having intense reactions to bug bites. Right now, he probably has a dozen bites, some of which are welted a quarter of an inch high, and some of which are bleeding. (He can't help scratching, alas.)

I have tried:
Cutter (the mosquitos go for the 1/4" of flesh where it isn't applied)
After Bite for Kids
Benadryl Cream for Itching
Baking soda in water in a very cool bath
Adolph's Meat Tenderizer (at the advice of a friend)

Nothing is helping. Do I go to hydrocortisone cream? A friend who is also a professional therapist for children—meaning she seems them, abused and otherwise, all day long, and whom I would hope could give me some kind of sensible answer, as she herself often gets horribly bitten—tells me that a child's immune system can go into a kind of chaos and not tolerate anything.

Have you any advice? I've never seen a child react to bites like this. We have to put band-aids on them, so he will leave them alone, but apparently the reaction makes scratching a necessity. They are on his arms, torso (front and back), neck, jaw, ears (like boxer's ears), and hairline.

Also: he lives with us. We have never had a problem with mosquitos before, but I can only assume the rainy March here in California contributed to this calamity.

The pharmacist today was zero help, pointing out to me only the topical ointments that his drugstore sold cheaper than the brand-names. (I am was so desperate that I went to the drugstore: maybe tomorrow I will go to the natural foods/remedies store, as I've had a better experience with those things than chemicals.)

We are reasonably certain, and have a large population of people who will back us up on this: the bugs bite him because he's made of sugar. He is the SWEETEST little lovey-dovey. No kidding. (You can see him on my blog, which I've linked to here only so you can get in touch with me, since this space doesn't require an e-mail address. Which I do!)

Surely other people are in this boat with their babies and toddlers during this unusual summer.

Many kind thanks for any assistance you can give. I kind of stumbled onto your blog accidentally, and am grateful that I did.

Nothing makes me feel as helpless as a suffering child.

Anonymous said...

The midwife I asked told me that it's better for me to use deet (while pregnant) than to get lots of bug bites, given that there's been Eastern Equine Encephalitis cases in our area.

It's all a cost/benefit trade-off; you do women a disservice by ignoring that and spreading FUD about what we should or shouldn't do while pregnant.

(Now, if you have information about whether deet or picaridin is a better choice, I'm listening.)

Anonymous said...

tana: You could try calamine lotion on the bites; it does cut the itching, and because it's runny and goopy and messy, it sometimes discourages scratching long enough to work.

Dr. Taraneh Razavi said...

Dear Tana

Although I can not comment on a specific cases with out examining the patient, I can say in general that when severe and multiple welts develop with bug bites then it means that there is a hypersensitivity reaction. That means that the person is allergic to the bites. In that case for the older children and for adults, antihistamines such as Loratidine/Claritin and hydrocortisone creams are recommended.
However, I am not a pediatrician and I do not know the appropriate dosages and age indications for these medications for children this young. You also have to be careful with steriod creams in very young children as chronic use may damage the skin. It would be best to ask his doctor for more specific advice. There is definitely more that can be done to help him.
I looked up his pictures on your blog. He is adorable. You are right. It is very hard to see a child suffer.
I would be interested to know what his doctor says.

Anonymous said...

I am personally fairly allergic to mosquito bites. Left alone, they usually swell up pretty badly. I've found one treatment which amazes me each time I use it, as it is so incredibly effective: hot water and unseasoned meat tenderizer.

Here's what you do.

1. Turn on the faucet (the bath tub might be convenient for this) to the hottest water you can stand without scalding.
2. Wet a washcloth with the hot water, and apply it gently to the bite. If the bite seems to be swelling slightly and darkening slightly in color, you're doing it right.
3. Open the container of meat tenderizer, and pour some out into your hand or the cap.
4. Add drops of water to the tenderizer until you make a paste the approximate consistency of wet sand.
5. With your hand, gently apply the paste to the bite, covering it entirely.
6. Repeat for all bites. Allow to dry.

While I don't understand the exact mechanism of this treament, my best guess is that the meat tenderizer, combined with the hot water, helps to denature the various proteins involved in the inflammatory immune reaction. The salt in the tenderizer may also help to draw fluid out from the area of the bite, further reducing inflammation. If hot water is not available, you can skip that step for a somewhat less-effective (but still helpful) treatment.

I also recommend Benadryl capsules at night for more severe cases.

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MRSShopaholic said...

Thank you for all your suggestions. My son is allergic to mosquito bites and I can’t seem to keep him from getting bit. I did find this product called Bug Bam which is amazing! They have wristbands (similar to the Lance Armstrong Live Strong bands) that are made specially for children.

When I read this blog, I thought you may be interested in wanting to know about it. It contains NO deet (which makes me feel much better knowing at least I was able to eliminate one chemical from entering my son’s body) and its all natural. For the most part, I have found it to be extremely effective and Bobby loves it because he thinks it looks cool. So basically, its a win-win situation – he loves it, and I can rest assure knowing he’s better protected.

I found the product on their website ( but I know you can find it at 7-Eleven. If I find any other safe products, I will be sure to blog it. Let me know what you think of it!

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Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

I used a DEET mosquito repellant when I visited a malaria mosquito-infested area of Thailand last summer. Of course, I was on malaria medicine as well, but better not to get bitten in the first place, right?

I thought it was really interesting that our guide told us they have two kinds of mosquitos in that area, and only one of them spreads malaria. He said the malaria-spreading mosquitos only come out at night, so he didn't even think we needed to take the medicine, since we weren't going to be out at night.

Anyway, thanks for the good post. :)


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Ashley said...

Another alternative to DEET is a mosquito trap, like one of those mosquito magnets.
Here's an example of one: These traps have independent studies backing up their effectiveness.