Summer is here and many Vermonters will spend more time outside. During the warmer months, the Northern New England Poison Center manages many calls about pesticides, such as insect repellants, also known as bug spray.

Bug Spray

Bug sprays with DEET are effective at preventing bites from mosquitos, ticks, and other pests. They help you avoid pain and itchiness from bites. They can also help prevent diseases such as Lyme. Depending on the amount of DEET in the product, an insect repellent will keep ticks away for two to ten hours, and mosquitoes for two to twelve hours.

Use insect repellants safely by following these steps:

  • Read the directions on the product label each time you use it. Follow the directions carefully.
  • Do not apply insect repellant over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply it near your eyes or mouth.
  • Wash the product off with soap and water once you are indoors. Wash treated clothing before you wear it again.
  • Call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 if you spray into eyes or get in mouth, or if you think you are having a bad reaction to DEET.

Take special care with children. Products with a concentration of 30 percent DEET or less have been shown to be safe for children older than two months. An adult should always apply insect repellants to children. Avoid using the product on children’s hands.


Pesticides include many more products than just insect repellants. Common pesticides found in the home include weed killers, ant traps, flea treatments, rat poison, and disinfectants. Every product classified as a pesticide is required to give standard information on the label.

Here are some general tips for using pesticides safely:

  • Read and carefully follow the directions on the pesticide label for pesticide use, safety, storage and disposal. Read the label each time you use the product.
  • Use pesticides in a well-ventilated area. Keep kids and pets away during application.
  • Never use an outdoor-use pesticides indoors.
  • Store all pesticides out of reach of children and pets.
  • Keep pesticides in their original labeled containers. Store them separately from food, drinks, medications, and other products.
  • If you have pesticides you no longer need, dispose of them properly. Call your town office or local waste facility to find out the best way to get rid of these products.

If someone swallows or inhales a pesticide, or gets one in their eyes or on their skin, call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. We are available 24/7. All calls are free and confidential.

For general questions about the choosing, storing or using pesticides, call the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378 or visit

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