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Many Parents Apply Insect Repellant Incorrectly

Reuters Health

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - More than one third of parents visiting Maryland campgrounds disregard label directions when applying potentially toxic insect repellant to their kids, new research reports.

Moreover, many parents admit to potentially dangerous habits when applying repellant to children, such as adding it to palms (where kids can rub their eyes), letting kids go to bed without washing off the spray (which can over-extend their exposure to the repellant), and using products with high concentrations of DEET, the active ingredient in many insect repellents, which can be toxic for young children.

Because most parents don't rely on label instructions, "it would be prudent to increase efforts to educate parents about recommended procedures for use of repellents on children," write Dr. Amy E. Brown and co-author Kalapurakkal S. Menon, both from the University of Maryland in College Park.

N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) is one of the most common and effective ingredients of insect repellants, and it is used by approximately one third of Americans. However, experts have raised concerns about DEET, noting that high concentrations may be toxic, particularly to young children.

Currently, the U.S. recommends that parents who apply repellant to kids opt for products that contain no more than 10 percent DEET, the authors report in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

To investigate how well parents apply bug repellant to their children, the researchers asked 301 parents visiting Maryland campgrounds about how they protect their youngest child from insects.

The researchers found that the vast majority of parents -- more than 83 percent -- used bug sprays that contain DEET. The concentration of DEET in sprays varied, but ranged from 5 percent to 95 percent.

More than one third of parents said they also put repellant on children's clothes, a practice that "may be unnecessary," the authors write.

Approximately three quarters of parents said they only put repellant on kids once during the day, or washed off old repellant before reapplying. For people who applied repellant once, children spent an average of 11 hours per day coated with repellant.

More than one third of parents volunteered the fact that they do not follow the label's directions. Only 30 percent of parents said they followed all the label's directions; the other parents did not respond to this question.

A small percentage of parents -- around 10 percent -- sprayed kids in the face with repellant, a practice that enables repellant to seep into the eyes and mouth, Brown and Menon note.

They add that education efforts should focus on fathers, "as they were more likely than mothers to disregard (or be unaware of) directions to avoid treating face and hands directly."

SOURCE: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, January 2005.

Copyright 2005 Reuters.


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