DEET Insect Repellents

The spread of the West Nile virus in the US has increased the awareness of more people in the use of insect repellents containing DEET. Scientifically known as N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide, DEET is the active ingredient used in most insect repellents that are applied directly on the skin. Primarily used to protect against mosquitoes, especially those that help spread the West Nile Virus, DEET insect repellents are also effective protecting against other disease causing insects such as ticks.

DEET is said to be effective in protecting against mosquitoes by blocking insect receptors used by the insects to locate possible hosts. The chemical disrupts the ability of mosquitoes to detect carbon dioxide sources, a gas that is naturally given off by the skin as well as by the breath and what the mosquitoes use to detect hosts.

Putting it simply, DEET blinds the insect’s senses enough not to trigger its feeding instinct in the presence of the chemical. DEET was first developed by the US Army following experiences of soldiers in jungle warfare during World War II. It was first tested as a pesticide on farm fields and later on used to repel insects instead by the soldiers. It was approved for military use in 1946 and eventually entered into civilian use in 1957.

Today, DEET is widely marketed all over the world as an active ingredient of insect repellents and is available in a number of concentrations. There are some products that contain 100 percent DEET while there are also others that contain only a certain percentage. Some studies have shown that DEET concentrations are related to the number of hours that they can protect humans from the insects. DEET with 100 percent concentrations are said to provide protection for up to 12 hours. Formulations containing 20 to 34 percent DEET can offer three to six hours of protection.

Because of its effectiveness in protecting against insects such as mosquitoes and ticks, DEET-based insect repellents has been recommended for use by a number of recognized organizations such as the World Health Organization, the US Army and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect against mosquitoes and other insects.

DEET is considered safe to use if applied as instructed. But users are still cautioned against using DEET based repellents on damaged or broken skin or under clothing. In rare cases, skin rashes may be experienced while extensive DEET exposure is also said to cause insomnia, mood disturbances as well as impaired cognitive functions. For children, an insect repellent containing from 10 to 30 percent DEET is considered safe although it is recommended that DEET should not be used on infants under two months old.

Leave a Comment