Every year, approximately one-third of the U.S population uses insect repellants containing DEET to ward off mosquitoes and other pests. At present, DEET is used in more than 230 products with concentrations up to 100 percent.
However, DEET should be used with caution due to its possible damaging effects on brain cells. Studies have shown that DEET causes brain cell death and behavioural changes in rats after frequent and prolonged use. This exposure causes neurons to die in regions of the brain that control muscle movement, learning, memory, and concentration.
- Use insecticides containing DEET sparingly and infrequently. If you do use one on your skin, avoid wearing it for prolonged periods of time.
- Be wary of using insect repellent containing DEET on children. Children are more susceptible to subtle brain changes caused by chemicals in their environment because their skin more readily absorbs them.
- Also, their still-developing nervous systems are more potently affected. For the same reasons, NEVER use insect repellent containing DEET on infants.
- Be aware that DEET can be present in commonly used preparations like insecticide-based lice-killing shampoos. Use the same precautions with such preparations as you would with insect repellent.
- Do not combine insecticides with each other or use them while using other medications. Even an over-thecounter antihistamine could interact with DEET to cause toxic side effects.
- Do not spray your yard for insects and then take medications afterward. There is a possibility that you've inhaled a small amount of the insecticide that might interact negatively with the medication. Also, be sure to wash your skin thoroughly after spraying your yard. Lawn treatment chemicals are very strong and were not formulated to be applied to human skin.