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Last year, Massachusetts saw more cases of eastern equine encephalitis than any other state in the country. At least 12 individuals in the state contracted EEE from bites inflicted by infected mosquitoes, and three of these infected individuals ultimately died as a result of the disease’s progression. Due to the alarming rise of EEE in Massachusetts, residents are strongly urged to use mosquito repellent before venturing outdoors this spring and summer. It is often said that mosquito repellent products containing the ingredient known as DEET offer superior protection from mosquito bites. Numerous studies show that this is true, and DEET repellents are also recommended by Public health agencies in the US. However, DEET repellents are sold as aerosol sprays, lotions, and ointments, and the concentration of DEET ranges from four to 100 percent depending on the product. Because of these factors, it is not always clear as to how these products should be applied to the skin, and how much.

Applying DEET repellent to skin that is already covered in sunscreen is not recommended, and products that are advertised as being a mix of sunscreen and DEET repellent should be avoided. Medical experts state that DEET repellent and sunscreen should not be applied at the same time, as doing so will produce a reaction that causes the human body to absorb high levels of DEET through the skin. DEET repellent can be safely applied to skin no sooner than 30 minutes following the application of sunscreen, and sunscreen should always be applied before DEET repellent. DEET comes in varying strengths depending on the product, and it is important to note that a high concentration of DEET may irritate the skin. Experts state that any product with a DEET concentration of around 30 percent is safe and effective in all outdoor situations.

Have you ever experienced skin irritation as a result of applying DEET repellent?