Cautiously apply insect repellents

Mosquitoes are out in full force already this year, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development is offering consumers mosquito mitigation tips and reminding them to exercise care when applying insect repellents such as DEET, lemon eucalyptus, and picaridin.

Excessive use of insect repellents containing DEET can result in adverse health effects, particularly in children if not properly applied.

“Thanks to the heavy rains last month, we are seeing a substantial increase in mosquito activity, so it is important that when spending time outside with friends and family, residents exercise caution when applying insect repellents,” said, Gina Alessandri, the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development’s Pesticide and Plant Management Division Director.

“You should always follow the directions for use on the product label, especially when applying repellents on children,” Alessandri said in a statement.

Mosquito bites are more than an annoyance. Mosquitoes are known to spread West Nile Virus.

This year’s bumper crop of mosquitoes is raising concerns about the threat of West Nile virus.

Michelle Dann of Grand Rapids knows first-hand how the mosquito-borne virus can turn a life upside down.

She went from a 46-year-old who exercised five days a week last summer to frail, pain-wracked and unable to walk or talk. She was hospitalized for five weeks and missed three months of work.

“It was terrifying,” Dann told said. “I was in such a state of shock.”

She urged others to use repellant and take steps to minimize the risk of mosquito bites.

“People are not afraid enough,” she told the newspaper. “There is just not enough awareness.”

To help, the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development offers the following tips to reduce mosquito bites and mosquito population levels:

– Consider using non-chemical means to prevent biting, such as screens, netting, long sleeves, closed shoes, and slacks.

– Practice prevention by eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes, such as standing water near the home.

– Consider using biological controls for small ponds you own, such as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, which is available at many stores.”

When applying insect repellents on children, follow the guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health:

– Do not use repellents with DEET on infants less than two months old.

– Apply repellent on your hands and then rub it on the child.

– Avoid spraying children’s eyes and mouths, and use the repellent sparingly around their ears.

– Never apply repellent to children’s hands or their skin under clothing.

– Do not allow young children to apply insect repellent to themselves.

– Once a child is indoors, wash the treated skin with soap and water.

– Keep repellents out of reach of children.

Additional precautions to keep in mind regarding applying repellents and eliminating possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes:

– Avoid mosquitoes during their prime feeding hours of dusk and dawn.

– Before applying repellent, read all label directions; not all repellents are intended to be applied to the skin.

– Repellents with low concentrations (10% or below) are effective and may be preferred in most situations. Start with a low-concentration product and re-apply if necessary.

– If applying repellents over a long period of time, alternate the repellent with one having another active ingredient.

– Do not use repellents on broken or irritated skin or apply to eyes and mouth.

– Avoid breathing sprays and do not use near food.

Reactions to repellents are rare, but exposure to excessive levels of DEET may cause headaches, restlessness, crying spells, mania, staggering, rapid breathing, convulsions, and possibly coma.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development 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.