Safe to use insect repellent with Deet

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Scientists have warned UK people travelling to tropical destinations, including those going to the World Cup in Brazil, to use protection and have stated that repellents that contain Deet are safe for use.

Deet offers protection against diseases, such as dengue fever and malaria, which is caused by mosquito and other insect bites. Some people have been concerned that it may be toxic and poses a health risk. However, scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have stated that Deet is the safest you can obtain.

They have recommended the application to the skin of repellents containing 20-50% Deet when people are in countries with insects that spread disease. They state that with foreign travel gaining popularity, there should be greater awareness about the risks of insect bites and how to prevent it.

There has been a two million increase in the number of travellers to tropical countries between 2002 and 2012. Public Health England recently warned about an increase in the rates of dengue fever in travellers returning to the UK.

During 1946, the US Army developed Deet after its experience of jungle warfare during the Second World War. Concerns about its safety were raised during 1980 when swelling of the brain or encephalopathy, proved fatal in children who had used it.

Scientists from the LSHTM state that the role of the repellent in the deaths of the children was ‘purely speculative’ and it could have been caused by other medication they were taking at that time. After searching through available medical information, they have reached a conclusion that the 14 cases of Deet-related encephalopathy which had been recorded since 1957, was very small compared to the 200 million applications of the repellent globally each year.

The scientists also considered other commonly held beliefs about the prevention of bites and have come to the conclusion that there was no evidence that eating garlic or Marmite was effective.

The lead researcher at LSHTM, Dr James Logan, said that there has always been a load of rumours surrounding Deet, as it was often confused with the pesticide DDT, which has been used to kill insects.

Professor Steve Lindsay at Durham University has agreed with the findings of the study.

He stated that people should make use of bed nets which have been immersed in insecticide, as well as a repellent.

Image Credit: Dan McKay

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