Bug Off: How to Keep Insects at Bay

Nothing turns a party sour faster than a swarm of uninvited guests. In the summertime, insects of the biting and stinging variety are the ultimate party crashers. Keep the bugs at bay (and your kids safe) with these tips.

Bug Off!Buzzing and crawling bugs are attracted to scented soaps, perfumes and hair sprays. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends not using these products before going outdoors. The AAP also suggests staying away from stagnant pools of water and gardens with blooming plants, as well as not wearing bright, flower-print clothing.

Insect repellents are effective in preventing bites by mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers and biting flies, but have little effect on stinging insects, such as bees, hornets and wasps. Before applying insect repellent to your children or yourself, read the label.

The AAP recommends using insect repellent sparingly on infants because it is absorbed through the skin. In fact, three active ingredients commonly found in insect repellents are highly toxic:

  • DEET (diethyltoluamide) is the active ingredient in most bug products, and heavy application has caused adverse reactions in adults and children. Repellents with a concentration of DEET over 20 percent have caused skin irritation and deep ulcerations, convulsions, slurred speech and at least one reported death among small children.
  • Ethylhexanediol may cause birth defects and should not be used by pregnant and nursing women.
  • Permethrin, found in lawn and garden stores, should never be applied directly to skin; instead, spray it on clothing and shoes. Using permethrin along with DEET provides the best protection from biting insects.

To maximize protection from bugs and to minimize exposure to toxic ingredients of common insect repellents:

  • Use sparingly (one application lasts up to six hours) to exposed skin and use a product with less than a 10 percent concentration of DEET.

  • Don’t put repellent on skin with cuts or mucous membranes, or on hands, where it may be absorbed or travel to the eyes or mouth.

  • Apply only in ventilated areas because insect repellents are toxic if inhaled.

  • Thoroughly wash repellent off skin after coming indoors.

  • Try to avoid outdoor activity at dusk and dawn,when mosquitoes are most active.

More about insect repellent options