- Avoid cultivating insect habitats —Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants —Wear them especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- Wear insect repellent —This is the most effective protection from insect bites.
Insect Repellent Basics
Repellents With DEET: Are They Safe?
Using DEET Products Safely
- Avoid using products that combine sunscreen with DEET. It may lead to overuse and toxicity, since repellent does not need to be reapplied as often as sunscreen.
- Always follow the instructions on the product label.
- Do not apply repellent under clothing.
- Do not apply repellent to cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- Wash treated skin with soap and water after returning indoors.
- Wash DEET-treated clothing after returning indoors.
- Do not spray DEET products in enclosed areas.
- Do not spray DEET products directly on your face. Spray your hands and then rub them carefully over the face, avoiding the eyes and mouth.
- Choose a product with less than 30% DEET.
- If you start to get mosquito bites, reapply the repellent according to the instructions on the product label.
- Do not apply repellent to children's hands. Children may put their hands in their mouths or use them to touch their eyes.
Promising Alternatives to DEET
- Have had allergic skin reactions to products with DEET in the past
- Have irritated, sunburned, bruised, or broken skin
- Have a skin condition, such as skin cancer, dermatitis, acne, eczema, or psoriasis
The Best Repellent for You
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov
US Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
Fradin MS, Day JF. Comparative Efficacy Of Insect Repellents Against Mosquito Bites. NEJM. 2002;347:13-18.
Goodyer L, Behrens RH. Short report: the safety and toxicity of insect repellents. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1998;59:323-324.
Guidelines to reduce exposure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/consultations/deet/guidelines.html. Updated December 6, 2004. Accessed July 1, 2015.
McGready R, Hamilton KA, Simpson JA, et al. Safety of the insect repellent N,N-diethyl-M-toluamide (DEET) in pregnancy. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2001;65:285-289.
Mosquito avoidance. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 17, 2015. Accessed July 1, 2015.
Picardin—a new insect repellent. Med Lett Drugs Ther. 2005;47:46-47.
FAQ: insect repellent use and safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/repellent.html. Updated March 31, 2015. Accessed July 1, 2015.
The insect repellent DEET. US Environmental Protection Agency website. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chemicals/deet.htm. Updated February 20, 2015. Accessed July 1, 2015.
Robb-Nicholson C. By the way, doctor. DEET makes a mess of my fly fishing gear. I've heard there are some new mosquito repellents that don't contain DEET. Are they any good? Harv Womens Health Watch. 2005;12:8.
Roberts JR, Reigart JR. Does anything beat DEET? Pediatr Ann. 2004;33:443-453.
Scheinfeld NS. Insect repellent: more attractive to people, less attraction for insects? Cutis. 2006;77:281-282.
Sun and water safety tips. American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Sun-and-Water-Safety-Tips.aspx. Published 2015. Accessed July 1, 2015.
6/17/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Insect repellents. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/pages/Insect-Repellents.aspx?n. Updated June 11, 2015. Accessed July 1, 2015.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 06/2015 -
- Update Date: 07/01/2015 -