It’s Buggin’ Me! How to Safely Use an Insect Repellent
Why Should I Use an Insect Repellent?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) strongly recommends the use of insect repellents to prevent transmission of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. Most cases of malaria diagnosed in the U.S. originate from other parts of the world.
How Do Insect Repellents Work?
In the warmer months it is important to use an insect repellent; in tropical climates it may be needed year-round.
How Should I Apply an Insect Repellent?
Choose a repellent that provides protection for the amount of time that you will be outdoors. Only apply repellents outside to help avoid breathing in the spray.
If you do get a bite or sting, follow these suggestions.
How Else Can I Protect Myself From Insects?
You can also limit the time spent outdoors, especially at the peak mosquito-feeding times of dawn and dusk. However, most Zika virus infections are transmitted via mosquito bites particularly from the day-time active Aedes species of mosquito.
Are Insect Repellents Safe?
An EPA registered insect repellent is not expected to cause serious side effects to humans or the environment when used according to the directions.
What is DEET?
A long-acting formula is available that contains 34 percent DEET (Ultrathon lotion) and affords 6 to 12 hours of protection. Other retail brands names that contain DEET include Off, Cutter, and Sawyer.
One study found that the Aedes genus of mosquito, known to transmit Zika, Yellow Fever, dengue, and chikungunya, are not turned off by the widely used insect repellent DEET, as they cannot smell the DEET.
Is DEET Safe for Children or Infants?
No serious illness has been linked to the use of DEET in children when used according to manufacturer’s recommendations. However, once inside, it is best to wash repellent off with soap and water.
How Should I Apply an Insect Repellent on a Child?
- apply repellent to your own hands, then rub onto the child
- avoid the child's eyes, mouth, and use sparingly around ears
- avoid open wounds
- do not apply repellent under clothing
- wash treated clothing
- wash the treated skin when you have returned indoors
- keep repellents out of reach of children
Can Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women Use Insect Repellents?
As always, contact your healthcare provider for answers to questions about the use of any medication in pregnancy or breastfeeding.
What About Zika Virus?
Women who are pregnant should not travel to areas with Zika. If you must travel to one of these areas or if you live in an area with Zika, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and to prevent sexual transmission. CDC has updated guidelines for Zika virus and which travel areas to avoid on their website.
Is Picaridin Also an Effective Insect Repellent?
Various brand names are available in spray and wipes for application to the skin. Brands that contain picaridin include Cutter and Advanced Natrapel.
Are There Any Natural Insect Repellents?
OLE products include Repel Lemon Eucalyptus and Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus. Some consumers complain of the OLE odor.
Is Avon's Skin So Soft a Bug Repellent?
IR3535 is available as a lotion and a spray. Products that contain IR3535 include Avon's Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus and Bull Frog Mosquito Coast.
Can I Spray Repellent On My Clothes for Added Protection?
Permethrin is available as a spray for clothes, insect nets, sleeping bags, shoes, and boots. One brand is Sawyer Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent. Follow label directions for timelines for re-application.
What Are the Common Side Effects With Insect Repellents?
If you suspect you are having a skin reaction, stop use of the product, wash the area with soap and water, and call 911 or contact the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. If the repellent gets into your eyes, flush your eyes with water immediately and contact 911 or the Poison Control Center.
Can I Apply DEET and a Sunscreen at the Same Time?
Swimming or sweating may lessen the effective time of these products, and reapplication may be needed.
Finished: It’s Buggin’ Me! How to Safely Use an Insect Repellent
- CDC. West Nile Virus. Updated information regarding insect repellents. August 6, 2012. Accessed April 16, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/repellentupdates.htm
- CDC. West Nile Virus. Questions and Answers. Insect Repellent Use and Safety. Accessed April 18, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/insect_repellent.htm
- Illinois Department of Public Health. Prevention and Control. DEET Insect Repellents. http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/deetfacts.htm
- Fradin MS, Day JF. Comparative efficacy of insect repellents against mosquito bites. N Engl J Med. 2002; 347:13-8.
- Insect Repellents. The Medical Letter. Vol 54 (1399). September 17, 2012. Accessed 4/18/2013.
- Hurricane Katrina: Information on Insect Repellent Use and Safety in Children. Drugs.com Posted September 2005. Accessed 4/18/2013. Available at: http://www.drugs.com/news/hurricane-katrina-insect-repellent-safety-children-1533.html
- Bug Spray Poisoning. Drugs.com. Posted 2/28/2012. Accessed 4/18/2013. Available at: http://www.drugs.com/enc/bug-spray-poisoning.html
- CDC. West Nile Virus. Questions and Answers. West Nile Virus, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding. Accessed April 18, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/breastfeeding.htm
- American Academy of Pediatrics. HealthyChildren.org. Safety and Prevention. Insect Repellents. Updated 9/12/2012. Accessed 4/22/2013. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx