The Low-Down on Insect Repellent

Summertime fun is usually met with the unfortunate company of mosquitoes and other stinging insects, here are the current facts about some common repellent ingredients

The Low-Down on Insect RepellentNothing ruins a lovely summer evening like the menacing hum of a mosquito, or the sharp irritation of one of its bites. There are mixed messages surrounding safe mosquito repellent ingredients (there are only a few active ingredients currently approved for personal insect repellents in Canada), so when you visit your drug store, check labels and talk to your pharmacist about the best ways to keep the bugs at bay.

  • P-Methane-3,8-diol: The newest ingredient on the scene, this stuff occurs naturally in the lemon eucalyptus plant, and is approved for safe use. It provides up to two hours of protection, but should not be used on children under three.
  • Soybean oil: Depending on the product, it can give one to three hours of protection. No age-related restrictions.
  • Citronella: A re-evaluation of this ingredient in 2004 raised some questions about its safety, and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency has since recommended a phase out of citronella-based repellents (a final decision hasn’t been made). Citronella repellents offer protection for 30 minutes to two hours, and shouldn’t be used on anyone under two.
  • Lavender oil: This ingredient was also re-evaluated, and, as of March 31, 2007, repellents containing lavender oil have been phased out.
  • DEET: This controversial ingredient is back in the good books — kind of. Don’t use it on kids under six months, and for kids six months to two years, it should be used sparingly, at low concentrations (10% or less) and only when there is a high risk of bite-related complications. For ages two to 12, use the low concentrations (10% or less) and don’t use it more than three times per day. For those 12 and over (including those who are pregnant or nursing), there is no indication of a health hazard. Depending on the concentration, DEET can provide two to six hours of protection against ‘skeeters.

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