DEET Fact Sheet

DEET is recommended by top experts and organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Department of Defense and by the thousands of professionals who use it in their work and leisure activities. It has been available for consumer use since 1957. Click here for “what experts say”

Annual Use

There are more than 400 million uses of DEET annually every year in the U.S. Worldwide, there are billions of uses each year.

Studied Since the Early 1950s—Still the Gold Standard

Scientists have studied DEET extensively starting even before its introduction to the U.S. consumer market in 1957. No other personal insect repellent has been studied and tested as rigorously and extensively as DEET. Today, it is still the “gold standard” for efficacy in repelling biting insects and ticks.

How DEET Works

DEET is a repellent—not an insecticide. It does not kill the insects and ticks that attempt to bite us. In the case of mosquitoes, DEET disrupts their ability to detect carbon dioxide and other products of human metabolism, which is how they find us. No one knows for sure why ticks are repelled. You need at least a 20% concentration of DEET in a product to work against ticks. What’s the best way to avoid tick bites? Reference: Rockefeller University—M. Leslie, Neuroscience. Hiding from Insects in Plain Scent. Science 2008:319:1471

Health Effects

Most people looking for DEET information on the Web have heard non-specific rumors that DEET-based repellents are “dangerous.” If that is why you are on our site, take comfort In knowing that scientists have found no direct link between DEET-based repellents and significant long-term health effects when products are used according to directions on the label. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and others have reviewed all of the science…and there is a lot of it. The AAP says that children as young as two months can use DEET-based products in concentrations up to 30%. For those headed overseas where malaria and dengue are endemic, higher concentrations can be used.

Despite urban legends, DEET has never been shown to cause seizures in children or adults when applied according to label directions and a scientific review of the issue concluded there is no linkage. (Osimitz TG, presentation to CDC WNV meeting, SFO, 2004 and others. PowerPoint Poster Presentation available.)

Some experts recommend DEET-based products for use by pregnant women who are exposed to potential diseases such as West Nile virus, which can affect an unborn child. see article: DEET-based insect repellents. Women should always consult their physicians for guidance

DEET-based repellents can be used on children as young as two months old in concentrations up to 30%. Always use a concentration that is suited for the length of time you will be outside. For a 90-minute barbecue, use a 7-10% concentration product. For family camping trips, use the higher concentrations because they offer longer protection times.

The Most Common Problems with Repellents

DEET and other ingredients (alcohol, for example) found in many repellent formulations will sting the eyes. Click here to learn proper application. Skin rashes have been reported very rarely and are thought to be related more to other ingredients than they are to DEET. Washing with cold water takes care of both. Follow-up studies show there is no relationship between the DEET concentration in a product or an individual’s age and the incidence of skin rash.

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The amount of DEET (the active ingredient) in a repellent product.

The higher the concentration, the longer the repellent will work to ward off mosquitoes and other insects. A 7% concentration provides protection from bites for about 90 minutes. A 100% product will last from 10-12 hours, depending on a wide range of variables. These include whether you are perspiring, the types of mosquitoes in the area, the time of day, and other considerations. For ticks, a minimum 20% concentration is needed.

Insect Repellent

Products formulated to discourage biting insects and ticks from biting. These products are smoothed on the skin and sometimes sprayed on clothing to ward off the insects.


A product sprayed in the air or on a surface to kill flying and crawling insects. DEET is NOT used in these products. It does not kill insects or ticks.