How to Recognize the Side Effects of Bug Spray

Candace Nelson
Written by Candace Nelson
Updated December 14, 2021
Man using gloves sprays inside kitchen cabinets

Keeping pests away can be necessary in the summer months but recognizing bug spray side effects is crucial

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Breaking out the bug spray is often crucial to enjoying the great outdoors, especially in the summer months; however, you’ll need to do so safely. Bug sprays, especially when overused, can cause side effects. These sprays are not only harmful to the bugs you don’t like, but can also be harmful to humans and your pets, and busy bees, so use with caution.

Below we’ve outlined some common side effects of bug spray, as well as some safety tips for using different types of insecticides.

Bug Spray Side Effects

In many regions, the cost of enjoying the evening breeze is dealing with pesky mosquitoes.

Most people can tolerate mosquito repellents, like DEET, with, at worst, mild reactions like some skin tingling or redness. The repellents can irritate eyes, so take care to cover them when spraying and avoid rubbing your eyes after application. If possible, shower before going to sleep to rinse the spray off and prevent irritation and bug spray side effects.

You should apply mosquito repellants outside. Use as little as is needed to keep the bugs away. For small children, try to apply the bug spray to their clothes rather than their skin. Keep it off their hands—you know where those often end up. You might also be able to make your yard inhospitable to bugs by planting mosquito-repelling plants around your patio or play area or lighting DIY citronella candles. Take care to keep mosquitoes away by eliminating any standing water by dumping out pots and clearing gutters, too. Find a lawn pest control company near you to get even more resources.

Signs of Bug Spray Overexposure

Symptoms of overexposure to bug sprays can occur up to 12 hours later. It can be mistaken for heatstroke or heat exhaustion with the following symptoms:

  • Headache, fatigue, dizziness.

  • Loss of appetite, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea.

  • Blurred vision, watery eyes.

  • Excessive sweating or salivation.

Seek medical care if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms. More severe exposure—such as accidentally consuming insecticides—can lead to inability to walk, chest tightness, muscle twitching, and pupils that reduce in size. To be safe, change clothing and wash exposed skin after using bug spray.

Use of Bug Bombs

If the bothersome bugs are inside your house, like fleas or bed bugs, you might want to eliminate them all with a bug bomb. Bug bombs, aka foggers, or other bug sprays can be used safely in the house if needed. However, there are some tips you should follow to stay safe and avoid side effects:

Clear Out

  • Get everyone—including pets and kids—out of the room and, even better, out of the house.

  • Don’t use more product than is needed. More is not better; it’s more dangerous to you. Don’t use bug bombs in small, enclosed spaces like closets.

  • Use the spray as instructed on the label and get out of the room. Seal it off as best you can. Leave a note on the door, reminding everyone to keep it closed.

Ideally, get everyone out of the house for the time indicated on the label since the chemicals can easily seep out of one room. If possible, stay away for four hours—particularly if anyone in the house is prone to asthma, allergic reactions, or skin sensitivity. 

Air It Out

Once your four hours are up, air out the space by opening the windows, and maybe setting up a fan to blow any lingering chemicals out. 

If there was any open food in the room, be sure to throw that away. Wash any teddy bears, bedding, or clothing that was exposed. Properly store or dispose of any remaining insecticide. Follow the label instructions.

Symptoms of Insecticide Poisoning

If you follow the insecticide directions carefully, you should be fine, but some people are more sensitive than others, and accidents happen.

If you breathe in insecticide, you might experience mild irritation that goes away when you get in fresh air. If anyone experiences difficulty breathing, coughing, vomiting, stupor, tremors or seizures, call 911.

You can also contact poison control for assistance:

  • The National Poison Help hotline number is 800-222-1222. Operators can connect you to your nearest poison control center. The hotline will provide expert assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, free of charge.

  • Contact animal poison control at 888-426-4435. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A consultation fee may apply.

Hives, skin irritation, redness, and burning sensations are some of the more common skin reactions.

If you believe you have been poisoned by bug spray or insecticide, immediately call for help. Have the age and weight of the person exposed, the name of the product, and the amount of time the product was inhaled or how much, if it was swallowed.

Insecticide Safety

Insecticides get into the body in three ways: through skin, breathing it in, or through the mouth. When using insecticides, be careful to wear a mask and don’t touch your skin. It’s easy to get a little on your hand then wipe a sweaty brow and spread it. 

To avoid exposure:

  • Store insecticides in their original containers out of reach of children.

  • Never use your mouth to clear the nozzle or siphon a product.

  • Don’t eat, drink, or smoke in the treatment area.

  • Wash hands and clothes after using the product.

Pest Deterrents

One way to keep pests away is with good housekeeping. Keep ants away with a clean kitchen. They’re less likely to wander in looking to score some free food if there isn’t a mess to find. Wipe down counters, don’t leave dirty dishes around, and keep food in air-tight containers. 

Home and yard maintenance can also keep pests away. Seal windows, patch any holes or cracks, and put screens on the vents to prevent bugs, rodents, and other uninvited guests from coming in. Any clutter just outside the house can serve as a welcome mat to critters who would love to set up a home in your pile of cardboard, overgrown bushes, or stack of firewood.

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