What Is DEET?

DEET is particularly useful for repelling disease carriers like deer ticks.
Eucalyptus is said to be an effective mosquito repellent.
DEET is often used as a mosquito repellent.
DEET is one of the most common ingredients in insect repellants.
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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is arguably the most widely recommended active ingredient in insect repellents. Proven effective, it does not kill insects. Instead it prevents biting insects like mosquitoes and ticks from zeroing in on a person's skin.

Biting insects follow the scent of carbon dioxide gas to find a meal. Skin and breath naturally give off a carbon dioxide. By spreading a small amount of DEET on exposed skin and applying it to external clothing, insects cannot readily locate the source of the carbon dioxide.

Each year, about 30 million Americans use products containing DEET. Its greatest benefit is in repelling disease-bearing insects, like deer ticks that can transmit Lyme disease, and mosquitoes that can transmit encephalitis and West Nile virus. It also benefits those exposed to insects that might be carrying malaria, dengue fever, and other diseases.

Studies found that a concentration of 23.8% DEET successfully repelled mosquitoes for approximately 5 hours — three times longer than the next leading product. It also found that higher concentrations extended that protection time. Other studies indicate ticks are repelled for 3-8 hours, depending on the concentration used.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered DEET for public use in 1957. It re-assessed the chemical in 1998 to ensure that it meets modern safety standards. It concluded that it is very safe when used as directed.

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Older products containing DEET may have had misleading labels that included a child safety claim for concentrations of 15% or less. When the EPA reassessed the chemical in 1998, it mandated that the child safety claim be discontinued, finding that the concentration of DEET was irrelevant; following directions was deemed to be critical. Concentrations of 100% are safe for children when used as directed, while lower concentrations of 15% or less do not guarantee safety if the product is misused.

DEET has over 50 years of scientific research behind it, and the efficacy of widespread public use for several decades. This makes it the most vigorously tested repellent on the market. Although safe, users should make sure to read and follow all labels instructions that come with any product containing DEET.

April 2005 Update: Following years of recommending only DEET, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has announced two additional repellents: picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Both picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are said to be relatively effective at repelling mosquitoes, and significantly more pleasant to use than DEET.

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Discuss this Article

anon284021
Post 5

Is there any natural stuff I can use as mosquito repellent?

anon278169
Post 4

We are the guinea pigs. We find out years later that a product deemed safe is not.

chrisinbama
Post 2

@ukwong: I totally agree with you. There have been recent studies done as to the dangers of DEET. After frequent and prolonged use, brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats was found. In turn, neurons die in regions of the brain that control the muscle movement.

In humans, overexposure can lead to memory loss, headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, and shortness of breath. That is consistent with findings that were reported following the military’s use of DEET in the Gulf War.

In a nutshell, it is a good idea to only use DEET in small quantities, especially in children.

ukwong
Post 1

I personally think even this product is proven effective to repel mosquito and other insects but if use for long term, i believe its will bring side effect to our health because this is still chemical product, so i believe many people is prefer something natural to prevent mosquitoes.

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