Common Myths About Insect Repellents

Don't fall for these misconceptions about insect repellents.

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The Dirt on Personal Insect Repellents

We’ve all become more aware of diseases carried by ticks, mosquitos and other bug pests. Certain pesticides and repellents offer effective ways to protect you and your family.

“Using insect repellent regularly is the first line of defense from bug bites and the insects, like mosquitoes and ticks, that may carry serious diseases,” says Kelly M. Semrau, senior vice president for global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability at SC Johnson. “Families should plan ahead for extended periods outdoors by selecting the right personal insect repellent to fit their activities.” Using tick repellent isn’t all you can do to protect yourself. These smart devices ward off bugs.

Here’s how to win the war on pests:

But over the years some misconceptions cropped up about these products. Learn the truth behind these common myths and safely protect your family.

Myth: DEET and Picaridin are Unsafe Chemicals

Developed by the USDA for use by the U.S. Army in mosquito infested areas, DEET has been available to the consumer since 1957 and is the most commonly used ingredient in repellents against ticks, mosquitos and other pests. Data has proven that it’s safe when used properly. Likewise, its counterpart picaridin has been evaluated for safety, according to the World Heath Organization and the CDC. Follow the directions and use repellents with these chemicals as they are intended.

Myth: Repellent Doesn’t Work

According to SC Johnson, “Every type of product has specific instructions for application, so always consult and follow the directions on the product label before applying.” Remember, like sunscreen, you have to reapply for the best results.

Myth: DEET and Picaridin Kill Ticks and Mosquitoes

No, they don’t. DEET and picaridin are repellents that only keep bugs like ticks and mosquitos away, and you have to reapply for them to keep working.

Myth: The Higher Percentage of an Active Ingredient, the Better Protected I am

Actually, the higher percentage only lets you know how long it will last. According to SC Johnson, “It is important to consider the activities that will be performed, the length of time you will be outside and the type of insects you may come in contact with to determine the concentration of active ingredients needed when buying a repellent.” Again, read the label and follow the instructions.

Be sure to educate yourself carefully about the length of time these repellents work.

Julia K. Porter
Dr. Julia Porter has worked in Higher Education since 2008, following a career as a High School teacher in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a PhD in Global Leadership from Indiana Tech, an MA in English Literature from Brooklyn College, and a BS in English Education from Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI). She lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and rambunctious Australian Shepherd.