What ingredients to look for when buying an insect repellent?



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The end of summer may be coming soon, but the mosquito season is not over yet.

Massachusetts is currently experiencing its first outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, since 2012. This month, state officials confirmed that four people had contracted the rare and deadly mosquito-borne virus, raising two dozen communities and 24 other "critics". "High risk level", respectively.

The infection, which can cause swelling of the brain, fever and coma, cost a Fairhaven woman's life earlier this week.

"We are seeing the most intense level of EEA activity we've seen in a number of years. The largest area is Bristol and Plymouth counties, with a second activity in parts of Worcester and Middlesex counties, "said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel in a statement last week. "We urge citizens across the state to remember that the peak of mosquito-borne disease transmission spreads until September, here in Massachusetts."

The state's Department of Public Health is now urging the public to take precautionary measures, including limiting time spent outside, wearing long-sleeved clothing and, of course, wearing an insect repellent.

So what should you look for when you buy a can of insect spray?

Here's what state officials advise you to keep in mind:

Check the active ingredients in each repellent

When comparing aerosols and brands, you should consult the active ingredients listed. DEET, permethrin and picaridin all protect against mosquitoes, although everyone has their own set of factors to consider:

  • DEET: "The products should not be used in infants younger than 2 months," says DPH on the state's website. "Children over two months of age must use products with a DEET concentration of 30% or less." Repellents may contain up to 100% DEET and higher concentrations mean a longer duration of protection. longer. So be sure to read the fine print.
  • Permethrin: According to DPH, permethrin products must be used on clothing, shoes and camping gear. They should not be used on the skin. "Apply permethrin to your clothes before putting them on and follow the product instructions," says the department.
  • picaridin: Available in the United States since 2005, repellents containing picaridin can be used on both skin and clothing to kill insects, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. "There is currently no data suggesting that children have an increased sensitivity specifically to picaridin," the center says on its website.

Eucalyptus lemon oil and IR3535 can be as effective as "low concentrations of DEET"

Eucalyptus lemon oil, a chemically synthesized plant extract, and IR3535 can be as effective as low levels of DEET, says DPH.

However, compared to DEET, the protection against lemon eucalyptus oil does not last as long, reports Poison Control. DPH warns that extract-based repellents should not be used in children under 3 years of age.

Look for active ingredients that are registered with the EPA

Ann Scales, a spokesperson for DPH, told Boston.com Wednesday that the most important thing consumers should think about is to choose an EPA-registered active ingredient repellent.

"The manufacturers of products registered with the EPA had to provide data proving that they were both safe and effective," Scales said in an email. "Although it's very tempting to use a product called" natural ", most of these products are not registered with the EPA and do not have to provide any proof of it. Efficiency or safety. "

And as for the end of the mosquito season, expect the annoying insects to stay in the area until the first frost.

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