With the severe wet weather Michigan has experienced over the last few weeks, residents could see more mosquito activity. The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) offers mosquito mitigation tips and reminded consumers to exercise care when applying insect repellent. Insect repellents are most often used to deter mosquitoes, biting flies, and ticks that are annoying and can pose a serious health risk. Excessive use of products containing diethyltoluamide (DEET), however, can result in adverse health effects, particularly in children if not properly applied.
"As the weather warms up and the yards dry out, it often signals more time outside with friends and family but can also bring an onslaught of insects such as mosquitoes and ticks. If you're going to use an insect repellent, it's essential you follow the application guidelines listed on the bottle, especially on children," said Keith Creagh, MDARD director. "Michigan is home to 60 different species of mosquitoes each of which are picky about who they feed on as well as they have the potential to spread diseases such as West Nile Virus, so consumers need to exercise precaution throughout the summer months."
Tips for reducing mosquito levels include:
- Consider the use of non-chemical means to prevent biting - screens, netting, long sleeves, closed shoes, and slacks.
- Practice prevention by eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Eliminate any standing water near the home, if possible.
- Use biological controls for small lakes and ponds such as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis available at many stores.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health recommends the following:
- Repellents with DEET should not be used on infants less than two months old.
- When using a repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on your child.
- Avoid children's eyes and mouth and use it sparingly around their ears. Do not apply repellent to children's hands.
- Do not allow young children to apply insect repellent to themselves.
- Keep repellents out of reach of children, and do not apply repellent to skin under clothing.
Additional precautions regarding applying repellents and eliminating possible breeding grounds for summer insects:
- Avoid mosquitoes during their prime feeding hours of dusk and dawn.
- Read all label directions before using the product and follow them carefully. Not all repellents are intended to be applied to the skin.
- Use repellents sparingly. Low concentrations (10% or below) are effective and may be preferred in most situations. Start with a low-concentration product and reapply if necessary.
- If repellents are applied over a long period of time, alternate the repellent with one having another active ingredient.
- Once the child is back indoors and/or the repellent is no longer necessary, wash the treated skin with soap and water.
- Do not use repellents on broken or irritated skin or apply to eyes and mouth. Avoid breathing sprays and do not use near food.
Although reactions to repellents are rare, exposure to excessive levels of DEET may cause headaches, restlessness, crying spells, mania, staggering, rapid breathing, convulsions, and possibly coma. MDARD and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are also warning consumers to immediately stop using a repellent if they experience any of the above symptoms. If the product is swallowed, consumers should immediately contact a poison control center or the hospital emergency room.
To determine if a repellent is registered for use in Michigan, check the MDARD website at www.michigan.gov/mda.