Travel Health Tropical Medicine Wilderness

DEET in Pregnancy

I ran accross a good question about someone concerned with DEET use in pregnancy.  This is a very good question and a pregnant woman should always be aware of what she is doing and taking, with respect to the health of her baby. By the way, the article was over at BootsnAll Travel Health Forum.

DEET is safe for use by pregnant and breast feeding women, following manufacturer guidelines. CMAJ • August 5, 2003; 169 (3) “DEET-based insect repellents: safety implications for children and pregnant and lactating women” by: Gideon Koren, Doreen Matsui and Benoit Bailey.

Another fantastic article on Mosquito Bite prevention can be found here: Mosquitoes and Mosquito Repellents: A Clinician’s Guide by Mark S. Fradin, MD. This article is in Annals of Internal Medicine, 1 June 1998 | Volume 128 Issue 11 | Pages 931-940.

These are my two main sources when I need to refer about safety of mosquito repellents.

There are a few other options, as well. Avon Skin-so-soft lotion has some anti-mozzi effects and is well tolerated in children and adults. The downside to this is that it requires more frequent applications for decent protection. The anti-mosquito properties are believed to come from either fragrance of the cream or the chemicals it contains, benzophenone and diisopropyl adipate. Citronella oil should aslo be mentioned, although it is not proven to be as effective as DEET.

DEET is a very well know compound and has a wide safety profile. The few reported adverse events associated with DEET have largely been in pediatric populations and associated with improper use (using far too much and too often). For more information you can visit another post on mosquito bite prevention.

Adventure doc


  1. Earlier today, I took a telephone call from a lady whose son had just been diagnosed with Dengue. She sounded very disturbed, as well she might.

    Since I cannot afford to delay the requisite epidemiological research and Contact Tracing for her son’s Suspected Dengue until I can verify her claim, I have undertaken to commit eight of my field inspectors to conduct surveillance of all localities that the boy visited during the fourteen day incubation period of the disease. (I always go by the maximum ranges for safety’s sake.)

    However, as an added protection, I advised her to utilise a DEET based product that she must apply on the child’s exposed skin for the next week. In three to five days from Friday (November 30), given that his Date of Onset was Monday or Tuesday of this week, he will become infective for aegypti. Fortunately, my inspectors will complete the house to house and spatial surveys within that period of time. This will effectively end with a round of fogging/fumigation using a synthetic pyrethroid, either a ULV (ultra low volume) or an RTU (Ready to Use), of my choice.

    Against this backdrop, it is timely that this post of yours has led me to the Clinician’s Guide that confirms, for the umpteenth time, that a combination of DEET (applied to the skin) and a Permethrin based product (applied to clothing with natural fibres) is most efficacious in reducing the Landing Rate of the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

    We are in sync man!

  2. Good to hear some confirmation from other sources that the information I rely on is correct. I unfortunately know very little about fumagation and products used for mosquito reduction in houses/buildings. Any advice on where I can learn some more? Thanks for the great story!

  3. I get this question a lot, especially from the communities that we have to fumigate/fog or otherwise treat with select larvicides.

    Now I write a newsletter – complete with a dedicated template – that I publish on the BVI government’s internal mail service via the intranet. I addressed this very issue on one of the past editions.

    I will reproduce that particular edition with some pointed links to the classes of products we wholly endorse based on EPA standards, one that we have on the borderline, not for efficacy but for aesthetic reasons, and another class we have long ditched.

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