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Fact v Fiction: The dangers of Deet

ALBANY -- Lisa Douglas is the mother of two young boys. As a new parent she has some concerns about using insect repellent on her kids.

"I'd just be afraid that it would get on their hands and they'd put it in their mouth it doesn't seem natural," she says. 

Many repellents contain Deet. It's a chemical that can help fight off mosquitos and ticks, preventing Lime Disease, and West Nile Virus. But, the New York State Department of Health warns, that the chemical can pose a risk if it's not used correctly. For Mom's like Lisa, keeping young kids away from bug sprays with Deet, is a good idea.

"Avoid kids under 2 months old. At that age their skin absorbs the drug more and you can get into some real problems," says Dr. John Janikas, Director of Emergency medicine Samaritan Hospital.
 
When Deet gets absorbed into the skin of a child under two months, it can not only cause irritation and trouble breaking, but in some cases it can cause seizures.

"Maybe around 12 I'd feel safe about using it and everything when their immune system is up and they've been around more products," says Douglas.

But Doctors say parents don't need to keep it away from all kids. 

"2 months to twelve years old, you can be a bit more liberal. Typically try and do some skin coverage with clothing," says Janikas. 

A good rule of thumb when you're applying insect repellent to your skin is never spray your clothing, only exposed skin areas. Also if you want to spray your face, instead spray your hand first then dab it on. This way it doesn't get in your eyes. Applying more insect repellent will not offer better protection.

"You don't have to do multiple layers once it covers your skin it's going to really take effect," says Janikas.

Also, using an insect repellant with more Deet in it, will not give you better protection. 

"Higher percentage doesn't necessarily mean that it's a better stronger product. What it means is that it will protect you against bites for a longer period of time," says Bryon Backenson, Research Scientist New York State Dept. of Health.

If you choose to steer clear of products containing Deet, there are other products on the market.

"There are products with an ingredient called picaridin, an ingredient called IR-45-45, most people know that as 'Avon Skin so soft,'" says Backenson.

While Deet is the best option at protection from ticks, bottom line, use sparingly. Because when it's used in excess it can be toxic.

 
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