Is DEET Safe to Use?

deet (diethyltoluamide, n,n-diethyl-meta-toluamide) insect repellent molecule. atoms are represented as spheres with conventional color coding: hydrogen (white), carbon (grey), oxygen (red), nitrogen (blue).

What is DEET?

N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, also called DEET or diethyltoluamide, is a chemical compound commonly used against mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, leeches, and serveral other biting insects. It is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. It is a slightly yellow oil intended to be applied to the skin or to clothing.



Some individuals have reported adverse effects such as skin blisters, rashes, mucous and membrane irritation, and neurotoxicity. However, these reports are rare and many were associated with use of high concentration formulas and/or misuse.


What the Science Says-

Over the past 20 years, DEET has been tested and approved as safe for kids and adults when used as instructed. After performing a comprehensive safety re-assessment of the compound in 1998, the EPA concluded: “As long as consumers follow label directions and take proper precautions, insect repellents containing DEET do not present a health concern. Human exposure is expected to be brief, and long-term exposure is not expected. Based on extensive toxicity testing, the agency believes that the normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population.”


How should DEET be Used?

When using repellent with DEET, follow these recommendations as outlined by the CDC:


Read and follow all directions and precautions on the product label.


  • Store DEET out of reach of children.
  • To apply to face, first spray product onto hands, then rub onto face.
  • Use only when outdoors and wash skin with soap and water after coming indoors.
  • Higher concentrations of DEET may have a longer repellent effect, however, concentrations over 50% provide no added protection.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Avoid over-application of the product.
  • DEET may be used on adults, children, and infants older than 2 months of age. Protect infants from mosquito bites by using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.