New study finds that only DEET keeps the bugs away 

It’s bug season again.

The tender flesh of children is swollen with bites, and that itch – just where you can’t reach it – is driving you crazy.

Well there is hope to avoid future torment but it lies with a chemical most people and almost every parent has avoided like the plague: DEET.

A new study has found that only DEET-based products actually protect against mosquito bites for extended periods of time.

According to a Canadian Press story, the best non DEET formulations offered only about two hours of protection, but most – including popular skin softening products many use as bug repellent – offered only minutes of protection.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Many are wary of using repellents made with N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, or DEET. That is hardly surprising when some products it is used in warn consumers to keep it away from watch crystals, sunglasses and some artificial fabrics in case DEET eats through them.

The study researchers, Dr. Mark Fradin, a dermatologist and professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, and Dr. John Day, a medical entomologist at the University of Florida, asked 15 volunteers to wear wrist bands soaked in various bug repellents. They then measured the bite response.

DEET products at concentrations greater than 20 per cent offered at least four hours of protection.

A soybean oil-based product – which is registered for use in Canada – offered 95 minutes of protection, making it a strong contender in the non-DEET class.

Citronella-based products fared poorly, offering just minutes of protection.

Last year Health Canada re-evaluated the safety and efficacy of insect repellents. It found that DEET is safe to use in low concentrations on children six months and older.

DEET has been around for more than 40 years and is used by 50 million people every year in North America.

There have been fewer than 50 reported cases of significant toxicity and most were a result of excessive and repeated use of DEET products.

For more information check out Health Canada’s safety tips on insect repellents at

The best repellent according to the study was OFF! Deep Woods (23.8%) which lasted 5 hours.

Sawyer Controlled Release (20%) lasted 3.9 hours, Bite Blocker for Kids, soybean oil (2%) lasted 95 minutes, and OFF! Skintastic for Kids (4.75%) lasted 88 minutes.


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