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DEET: The Bug Spray To Use

With warm weather all across the country, the Centers for Disease Control is once again warning about the dangers of the West Nile virus, which is spread through mosquito bites.

The Early Show's medical contributor Dr. Mallika Marshall offer advice on the best types of insect repellent to use on you and your children.

According to Marshall, many medical organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control advise you use a repellent that contains the pesticide DEET. There have been many studies done on DEET and it has been found to be both very safe and effective at preventing bug bites.

A product that contains about 23 percent DEET, for example, will protect for about five hours, while a product containing only 2 percent will only protect you for about an hour and a half. Therefore, you should reapply, depending on the type of repellent you are using.

Also, keep in mind how active you are. If you are sweating a lot, you'll want to apply more repellent. But the best advice is to read the instructions on the label, Marshall says.

The following are some tips on properly applying insect repellent:

  • Cover All Exposed Areas
  • Avoid Cuts, Wounds & Rashes
  • Don't Spray Directly On Face
  • Wash Hands

As Marshall explains, you want to make sure you completely cover any skin that is exposed, while avoiding putting repellent on any wounds you may have.

Also, when putting repellent on your face, don't spray it directly on. First spray it onto your hands and then gently rub it over the entire face, including the ears and neck. And don't forget to wash your hands when you're done applying. (You don't want to ingest any DEET.)

Besides DEET repellents, there are many other products on the market that claim to protect you from bites.

The bottom line, though, is that none offer you the same amount of protection as a product that contains DEET, and DEET products are safe to use on children.

The best concentration to use on children is 10 percent, says Marshall. There are higher concentrations, but you will want to stick with the 10 percent. This will mean you may have to apply it more often. There is one major caveat when using a DEET product: Don't apply it to children under 2 months of age.

Here are her tips on applying repellent on children:

  • Never Allow Child To Apply
  • Avoid Hands, Mouth & Eyes
  • Don't Use Under Clothing

If the repellent does get on the clothing, make sure it's washed before the child wears the article of clothing again.

Also note that wearing sunscreen does not counteract the effects of an insect repellent. In fact, it is recommended that if you are going to be spending time outdoors this summer that you wear both a sunscreen and bug spray. The general rule is to apply the sunscreen first followed by the insect repellent. There are some products on the market that are a combination of sunscreen and bug repellent, but it's advised NOT to buy these products. Stick with individual sunscreens and repellents.

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