biting flies, and ticks are annoying and can pose a serious
health risk. Mosquitoes can transmit diseases like Western
equine encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis. Biting flies
can inflict a painful bite that can swell and become infected.
Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other serious ailments.
When properly used, insect repellents can discourage biting
insects from landing on treated skin or clothing.
Insect repellents are available in various concentrations
and formulations--aerosol and pump-spray products, liquids,
creams, lotions, and sticks. An extra-strength product may
not provide extra protection. Although you may need to apply
it more often, a lower-strength product lessens your chances
of an adverse reaction to a chemical. You may also want to
consider nonchemical ways to deter biting insects--screens,
netting, long sleeves, closed shoes, and slacks.
the container to ensure that the product bears a U.S. EPA-approved
label and registration number. This means the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency has approved the product for safe and effective
use. Follow label directions carefully, use no more than the
amount directed, under the conditions specified, and for the
purpose listed. For example, if you need a tick repellent,
make sure that the product label lists this use. If ticks
are not listed, the product may not work well against them.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation recommends
the following precautions when using insect repellents:
should read all label directions before using the product
and follow them carefully.
all repellents are intended to be applied to the skin. If
application is allowed, you should apply repellents only
to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product
label). You shouldn't use them under clothing. Read the
label carefully. Some repellents damage certain fabrics
and plastics (including vinyl car seats).
shouldn't use repellents over broken or irritated skin,
or apply to eyes and mouth. With young children, do not
apply to their hands, which often end up in their mouths.
You should avoid breathing a repellent spray. Do not use
reactions to repellents are rare, it is always best to use
them sparingly. Heavy application and saturation are unnecessary
with a low-concentration product and reapply if necessary.
Better to build up to an effective level of protection than
to start with more than you need.
you're back indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
This is particularly important when you use repellents repeatedly
in a day or on consecutive days.
you suspect that you or your child are reacting to an insect
repellent, wash treated skin and then call your local poison
control center. If you go to a doctor, take the repellent
container with you.
Lyme disease has become the leading tick-borne illness in the
U.S. Although it is a more serious problem in the Northeast,
there were 436 cases of Lyme disease reported in California
from 1992 through 1994. The Western black-legged tick, the species
that most often transmits the disease, is found in 55 of California's
58 counties. This species commonly bites people as well as animals.
With proper precautions, Lyme disease is preventable.
ticks are found on grasses and other low vegetation from
October through June. Immature nymph ticks are found in
leaf litter from February through August.
in an infested area, tick repellents can help. Their effectiveness
is greatly increased if you also use a permethrin-containing
insecticide designed to be applied to clothing rather than
your skin. Follow label instructions carefully--for example,
wait to let the product dry before you wear the clothes.
pants cuffs into boots or socks. Wear long sleeves and light-colored
clothing which makes it easier to spot ticks.
to the center of hiking paths, and avoid grassy and marshy
yourself, your children, and your pets for clinging ticks
after leaving an infested area. Ticks are hard to see. Nymphs
are the size of a sesame seed, adults about 1/8 inch long.
If you discover a tick feeding, do not panic. Studies show
that an infected tick does not usually transmit the Lyme
organism during the first 24 hours. Even in heavily infested
areas, only 1 to 2 percent of biting ticks carry the disease.
the tick with tweezers, grasping it close to the skin and
applying steady upward pressure to make sure you remove
all parts of the tick. Then disinfect the area.
you suspect Lyme disease or its symptoms (a rash that sometimes
looks like a "bull's-eye" of red circles, and flu-like symptoms),
contact your doctor immediately.
California Environmental Protection Agency
DEPARTMENT OF PESTICIDE REGULATION
1020 N Street, Room 100
Sacramento, CA 95814-5624
Phone: (916) 445-4300
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in
NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in
NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder.