FAQs

Below are Frequently Asked Questions. If you do not find answers to YOUR questions here,  please contact us directly.

What is the DEET Education Program?

A number of companies that manufacture DEET and formulate DEET-based repellents sponsor the DEET Education Program. The primary goals of the program, which operates under the auspices of the Consumer Specialty Products Association based in Washington , D.C. , are to develop science-based information and educational materials for both professionals and the general public and to communicate with those audiences.

What is DEET?

DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is the active ingredient in most insect repellents available in the United States that are applied to the skin. DEET was developed nearly 70 years ago by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for use by our military. It was registered for use by the general public in 1957.

Where can I get samples or donations of repellents?

For many years, individual companies have been generously donating extensive amounts of repellent products. Typically these donations are made to public health organizations, which then distribute the products to low-income residents of areas with significant mosquito and tick infestations.

Regrettably, the DEET Education Program does not have products to donate beyond its outreach initiative through the public health sector. However, there are free brochures.

How should I select a product for use against mosquitoes?

DEET-based insect repellents are available in concentrations from five (5%) to 100 percent (100%) .  Generally, higher concentrations provide longer periods of protection. [1] For example, some five percent products carry  claims to repel mosquitoes for up to two hours, while 100 percent products may carry claims to last up to 10 hours. [2] There are also some extended-release DEET products with claims of up to 11 or 12 hours. There are many product offerings with varying levels of DEET and durations of repellency against mosquitoes. Always read the product labels and select products with the duration of protection that matches your anticipated time outdoors.

Can I use a DEET-based insect repellent and sunscreen together?

The effectiveness of both insect repellents and sunscreens are reduced when users apply them at the same time.   The CDC recommends applying sunscreen first.  When it is absorbed, apply repellent.  Reapply sunscreen often.  Reapply repellent when biting insects begin to bother you again.

How much scientific information is available on DEET?

DEET has a track record of reliable use and extensive scientific study for nearly 60 years.  It is one of the most studied consumer products’ ingredients.

How long does mosquito and tick season last?

Mosquitoes are most active from early spring until the first frost in many areas of the United States. This also is true for ticks. In warmer regions, biting insects may be active year-round.

What’s the best way to apply DEET insect repellents?

Please review our Proper Use section.

Can DEET be used by pregnant women and nursing mothers?

The CDC and EPA both suggest using repellent with an EPA-registered active ingredient (like DEET) to help avoid mosquito bites.  Always follow label directions.  For more, click here.

Pregnant women and nursing mothers should always consult their personal physicians about the use of repellents.

Is DEET an insecticide?

DEET is not an insecticide and neither kills nor harms the pests it repels. DEET interferes with the mosquito’s ability to detect the carbon dioxide our bodies release.

Where can I buy DEET insect repellents?

DEET-based repellents are available at grocery stores, pharmacies, sporting goods stores, home improvement centers, and other retail outlets.

Can DEET be used on my pets?

No.  They are formulated for use on humans .  Please consult your veterinarian for information about products formulated specifically for companion animals.

Can I use DEET on my horses?

There are equine products registered by the EPA for use in repelling flies and other biting insects that contain DEET. Consult your local tack shop for suggestions on what to use in misters and other equine repellent or insecticide products.

 

For traveling overseas, what concentration of DEET should I use?

The DEET concentration, i.e., 5 percent to 100 percent, directly equates to duration of effectiveness. Recommendations vary for persons traveling into endemic areas. We suggest visiting www.mayoclinic.com for additional information there under “global travel.” Remember to follow all label instructions carefully.  Also see the CDC site for Zika for guidance.

How many years does a DEET repellent remain effective? What is the shelf life of DEET?

DEET is very stable and is effective indefinitely as a repellent. For this reason, the federal government doesn’t require an expiration date on product labels. But manufacturers of repellents say that the feel, smell and appearance of their products may change after about three years. This does not reduce the DEET’s ability to repel mosquitoes and ticks but may make the product less appealing to users. If you’re not sure about your particular product, contact the manufacturer. Any other questions about DEET-based products, you can call us at 1-888-NO-BITES (662-4837).

Does DEET cause cancer, birth defects, or genetic changes?

DEET-based products have been subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny over many years. These tests have continued to confirm that consumers can use these products with confidence, according to product labeling directions. Additionally, tests confirm that DEET does not cause cancer, birth defects, or genetic changes.

Which government agency regulates DEET?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates DEET. Based on additional safety studies, the EPA re-registered DEET in 1998 for use according to label instructions. Registration of products for sale to consumers occurs only after determining that the products meet the strictest standards of effectiveness and after having assessed potential risks to human health and to the environment. The state of California and other states also require registration of insect repellents, including DEET-based products.

Do children sometimes have different symptoms than adults do when they contract a tick-borne illness?

Please see the diagnostics chart developed by the Missouri State Department of Health and Senior Services for specifics.
View Disease Symptoms Chart

What other biting insects will be repelled by DEET-based repellents?

Midges, gnats, no-see ‘ums, and other blood sucking insects are among the nuisances that DEET-based products help to repel.  Experts are studying the effects of DEET-based repellents on bed-bugs.  There is no evidence to date to suggest that it works and there is no EPA registration for this use.

 

What about stinging insects and spiders?

Insect repellents will not protect against bees, wasps, hornets, spiders and other “critters” that bite but don’t suck blood.

 

What should I know about repellents before applying?

Remember to read and follow label directions.  Do not apply over broken skin or cuts.  Apply sparingly to exposed skin, smoothing the repellent to assure even coverage.  Please see Proper Application. CDC has guidance on proper use of repellents–please click here.

Do we spray the biters?

No.  Repellents should not be sprayed on the insects or ticks (they won’t kill them!), are not intended for use on screens or other surfaces. These products should be used on exposed skin (for mosquitoes) and for skin and clothing for ticks.
View Proper Application

What does the medical community think about DEET?

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics both suggest using DEET-based repellents to help prevent mosquito and tick bites.

The AAP suggests that DEET-based repellents be used to help prevent mosquito and tick bites and advises parents that products containing up to 30 percent DEET can be used on children over the age of two months. [Need Link to AAP guidance]

Should I use DEET if I have a specific medical condition?

The DEET Education Program does not provide medical advice or answer questions of a medical nature. Such inquiries should be directed to your healthcare providers or to local and state public health officials.

What should I do if I inadvertently spray DEET in my eyes?

DEET-based repellents will sting if they get in your eyes. Follow label directions, flushing your eyes with fresh water as soon as you can.

Have scientific studies been done on DEET-based repellents?

The DEET industry has spent millions of dollars on research and it also has sponsored a tracking system to record and analyze clinical reports of adverse events possibly associated with DEET usage.Numerous scientific studies have been conducted and published in peer-reviewed journals. In 2002, for example, researchers at the University of Florida’s Medical Entomology laboratory compared the effectiveness of DEET-based repellents to some alternative products and found that DEET-based repellents were far more effective than alternatives. (Fradin-Day, New England Journal of Medicine, July 4, 2002). The Journal of Insect Science published a recent article on repellents.  To see what researchers found, click here.