DEET can irritate eyes and sensitive skin or dry it out. Some people are allergic to DEET. Infants and children tend to be more sensitive to DEET than adults. To minimize adverse reactions to DEET:
- Apply repellent sparingly and only to exposed skin
- Apply repellent to clothing to reduce DEET absorption through the skin
- Avoid using products with DEET concentrations over 30% (particularly on children and infants)
- Avoid inhalation or ingestion of repellents, contact with eyes, wounds or irritated skin
- Avoid applying repellents to portions of children's hands which are likely to come into contact with their eyes or mouth
While DEET is an effective repellent, high concentrations can feel unpleasantly oily and can melt plastic, watch crystals and paint finishes. It is safe on nylon, cotton and wool. However, it can damage rayon, acetate and spandex. Test repellents on an inside seem of polyester/cotton blends to see if DEET damages them. Products with citronella, an oil extract from lemon-scented grass or from eucalyptus, can be purchased from health food or camping stores. Avon Skin-So-Soft is widely used as a repellent, but it is not effective for all people. These products must be reapplied more frequently, and they are much less effective than DEET.