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West Nile Virus Repellents Containing DEET

Tips for proper protection when using mosquito repellents containing DEET

West Nile Virus is an illness spread by mosquito bites. Preventing mosquito bites can prevent getting West Nile Virus. Insect repellent products containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can reduce the risk of mosquito bites, but must be used with caution. Products containing DEET have been occasionally associated with health problems among people who have used it. The reported problems include: skin reactions such as rash, swelling and itching; eye irritation (burning, itchy and watery eyes); and less often, slurred speech, confusion and seizures.

Below are recommended precautions to take when using mosquito repellents containing DEET for adults and children.

Recommendations for use by adults:
  • Products with 10-35 percent DEET will provide adequate protection under most conditions. Be sure to read the product label and use according to the label directions.
  • Use DEET sparingly and apply only on exposed skin.
  • Do not apply to skin under clothing, or to skin that is damaged by sunburn, cuts, or other conditions such as psoriasis.
  • Wash treated skin and clothing after returning indoors.
Recommendations for use with children:
  • For children under 2 years of age, do not use repellent. Use mosquito netting or additional clothing to protect infants.
  • Repellents used on children 2-12 years of age should contain no more than 10 percent DEET, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Do not apply DEET directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child. Avoid applying on the child's lips, hands and eyes.
  • Do not allow children to apply DEET themselves.
  • Wash treated skin and clothing after returning indoors.
  • Store all repellents out of the reach of children.
  • If you believe you or a child is having a reaction to a repellent containing DEET, wash the treated area immediately and contact your health care provider or the Poison Center (1-800-222-1222).
Other Important Preventive Measures:

The use of DEET is only one way to reduce your risk of mosquito bites. Other important precautions include:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts during peak mosquito activity periods, such as dawn and dusk.

  • Use mosquito netting over infant carriers, carriages and playpens when outdoors.
  • Use window and door screens, and keep them in good condition.
  • Eliminate items on your property in which standing water can collect and serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Such items can include old tires, empty flowerpots and cans.
Where to go for more information about West Nile Virus and prevention

National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) 1-800-858-7378 or

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The Oregon Health Authority, Center for Health Protection provided this information for the Pesticide Analytical and Response Center (PARC). This information was derived from materials provided by the Mississippi State Department of Health, the National Pesticide Information Center, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.