When you’re just trying to enjoy the outdoors, but swarms of insects won’t stop trying to eat you alive, it can be tempting to douse yourself and your kids in bug spray.
Using insect repellent can protect you and your family from dangerous insect-borne diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile virus, but some brands and ingredients are safer than others.
It’s important to use bug spray safely, especially when you’re putting it on young children or using it frequently.
In this article, we’ll explore some insect spray ingredients, how they can affect your health, and how to reduce your risk of spray-induced illnesses.
What are the active – and potentially dangerous – ingredients in insect spray?
Different insect repellents use different substances, which can affect your health in a variety of ways if they’re sprayed in the wrong place or used heavily over a long period of time.
The most popular active ingredients are DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) and pyrethrins, the latter of which is made from the chrysanthemum flower.
Pyrethrins are generally considered less effective and less dangerous than DEET, but if you inhale large amounts, they can cause breathing problems.
How can I reduce the risk of being harmed by insect spray?
Here are four tips you can use to make your use of bug spray safer:
Tip -1 Keep it away from your face
Swallowing or inhaling bug spray gives it direct access to some of your most important organs. Once it’s there, pyrethrin-based spray can cause symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing, loss of alertness, vomiting, and an upset stomach.
If a large amount is swallowed, it can induce tremors and even seizures.
If a DEET-based spray gets into your nose, ears, eyes or throat, it can cause temporary burning and redness. Washing the area is usually enough to dissipate the symptoms, but burns to the eyes may require medical treatment.
If you swallow a small amount of spray with DEET in it, you may experience nausea, vomiting, and mild to severe stomach irritation. Swallowing a large amount can result in low blood pressure and a very slow heartbeat.
If you or someone you’re with has gotten bug spray in their eyes, or has inhaled or swallowed it, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center.
If you aren’t sure what your local poison center’s number is, they can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
Tip – 2 Watch for skin reactions
While many people can use insect spray in moderation without any ill effects, some people experience symptoms ranging from hives, mild redness and irritation to blistering, burning, and permanent scars, especially if they frequently use DEET-containing products over a long period.
Check your skin after using bug spray, and if you start to notice these symptoms, stop using sprays with DEET in them.
Tip – 3 Don’t use DEET on small children, especially babies
Long-term DEET use, and frequent use of the product on the very young, can result in insomnia, disorientation, mood changes, clumsiness, seizures, comas, or even death.
If you choose to use a DEET-containing product on small children, use brands that have a 30% concentration or less, and wash the spray off as soon as the kids are done playing outside.
While these instructions will enable you to use DEET on older children with relatively little risk, you should still avoid using it on babies under the age of two months.
Tip – 4 Pick brands with reasonable DEET concentrations
While higher concentrations of DEET can provide longer periods of protection, that increase in benefit stops once the concentration hits 30%.
After that, higher concentrations don’t provide any improvement in the duration and effectiveness of the bug spray, so avoid brands that use an excessive concentration of DEET.
Wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t have to use insect spray at all?
If you have too many bugs around your yard, and you want to get rid of them so you can enjoy the great outdoors without having to hose yourself down with chemicals, visit this page to get a free inspection and quote from our pest control experts today!