|| DukeMedNews || Checking the Ingredients of Insect Repellant

Suggested lead: Before you apply that insect repellant and head for the backyard cookout, you might want to check the ingredients. Tom Britt has more.

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Most insect repellants contain the insecticide DEET, a chemical that is generally safe when used in small amounts and by itself. But when combined with other chemicals and medications, DEET can have poisonous effects on the brain and the body. Duke University pharmacologist Mohammed Abou Donia has spent several years researching the effects of DEET. He says it can be safe and useful, with certain precautions.

“In order to avoid problems using DEET, we have to, number one, use as small an amount as possible. Two, we should be careful not to use it in combination with medications.”

Abou Donia says we should never use insect repellants on an infant. Their skin is too thin to provide an adequate barrier against absorption, and their systems cannot metabolize drugs and chemicals as well as an adult’s. He says there is evidence to show that DEET can cause severe brain damage in infants. He says it would be much better to simply keep the baby inside. I’m Tom Britt.

Abou Donia says there has not yet been enough research to show exactly which medications are dangerous when combined with DEET.

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“However, since we don’t know, to be safe, we just should not combine it with other drugs in general, even the simplest drugs for cough or cold.”