You Should Use Mosquito Repellent
repellent helps reduce your exposure to mosquito bites that may
carry West Nile virus or other diseases, and allows you to continue
to play, work, and enjoy the outdoors with a lower risk of disease.
You Should Use Mosquito Repellent
Use repellent when you go outdoors. You should use repellent
even if you're only going outside for a few minutes-it only takes
one bite to get West Nile virus. Many of the mosquitoes that carry
the West Nile virus bite between dusk and dawn. If you're outside
during these hours pay special attention to using repellent.
Mosquito Repellents Work Best
wide variety of insect repellent products are available. CDC recommends
the use of products containing active ingredients which have been
registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
for use as repellents applied to skin and clothing.
When EPA registers a repellent, they evaluate the product for
efficacy and potential effects on human beings and the environment.
EPA registration means that EPA does not expect a product, when
used according to the instructions label, to cause unreasonable
adverse effects to human health or the environment.
Of the active ingredients registered with the EPA, two have demonstrated
a higher degree of efficacy in the peer-reviewed, scientific literature.*
Products containing these active ingredients typically provide
longer-lasting protection than others:
• DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide)
• Picaridin (KBR 3023)
Oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD)], a plant based
repellent, is also registered with EPA. In two recent scientific
publications, when oil of lemon eucalyptus was tested against
mosquitoes found in the US it provided protection similar to repellents
with low concentrations of DEET.
These recommendations are for domestic use in the United States.
Travelers’ Health website for specific recommendations
concerning protection from insects when traveling outside the
In addition, certain products which contain permethrin are recommended
for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear, and are
registered with EPA for this use. Permethrin is highly effective
as an insecticide and as a repellent. Permethrin-treated clothing
repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes, and other arthropods and retains
this effect after repeated laundering. The permethrin insecticide
should be reapplied following the label instructions. Some commercial
products are available pretreated with permethrin. Permethrin
is not to be used directly on skin.
Often You Should Re-apply Repellents
Follow the directions on the product you are using. Sweating
or getting wet may mean that you need to re-apply more frequently.
the Percentage of Active Ingredient in a Product Relates to Protection
general, the more active ingredient (higher percentage) it has,
the longer a repellent will protect you from mosquitoes. For example,
DEET products are available in many formulations--something with
30% DEET will protect you longer than one with 5% DEET. You cannot
directly compare the percentage of one active ingredient to another,
Use your common sense. Re-apply repellent if you start to get
bitten and follow the label instructions.
As a “rule of thumb”:
For many hours outside (over 3-4 hours) and/or
where biting is very intense—look for a repellent containing
more than 20% DEET. Products with more than 50% DEET do not
offer additional protection.
shorter periods of time, repellents containing
less than 20% DEET, the repellent currently available with 7%
picaridin or one of the products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus
may provide adequate protection. There are other products available,
but they may not protect as long as those named here.
if you’re going out for 10 minutes use a repellent —that’s
long enough to get bitten!
Applying permethrin to your clothing ahead of time will give you
even greater protection.
Remember—if you’re getting bitten, do
something about it!
Choose a repellent that you will use consistently. Also,
choose a product that will provide sufficient protection for the
amount of time that you will be spending outdoors. Product labels
often indicate the length of time that you can expect protection
from a product. If you are concerned about using insect repellent,
consult your health care provider for advice.
The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) can also provide
information through a toll-free number, 1-800-858-7378 or http://npic.orst.edu.
Considerations for Using Repellents Safely
Always follow the instructions on the product label.
Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed
on the product label.) Do not use repellents under clothing.
use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears.
When using sprays, do not spray directly on face—spray
on hands first and then apply to face.
Do not allow children to handle the product. When using on children,
apply to your own hands first and then put it on the child.
You may not want to apply to children’s hands.
Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing.
Heavy application and saturation are generally unnecessary for
effectiveness. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film
of repellent, then apply a bit more.
returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or
bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used
repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also, wash treated
clothing before wearing it again. (This precaution may vary
with different repellents—check the product label.)
If you or your child get a rash or other bad reaction from an
insect repellent, stop using the repellent, wash the repellent
off with mild soap and water, and call a local poison control
center for further guidance. If you go to a doctor because of
the repellent, take the repellent with you to show the doctor.
that the label for products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus
specifies that they should not to be used on children under the
age of three years.
than those listed above, EPA does not recommend any additional
precautions for using registered repellents on pregnant or lactating
women, or on children.
additional information regarding the use of repellent on children,
please see CDC’s Frequently
Asked Questions about Repellent Use.
DEET-based repellents applied according to label instructions
may be used along with a separate sunscreen. No data are available
at this time regarding the use of other active repellent ingredients
in combination with a sunscreen.
See http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/mosquitoes/insectrp.htm for additional information on using EPA-registered repellents.
addition to wearing repellent, you can protect yourself and your
family by taking these precautions:
Wear clothing with long pants and long sleeves while outdoors.
Apply permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent to clothing,
as mosquitoes may bite through thin fabric. (Remember: don't
use permethrin on skin.)
Use mosquito netting over infant carriers.
Reduce the number of mosquitoes in your area by getting rid
of containers with standing water that provide breeding places
for the mosquitoes.
For more information, read What
You Need to Know About West Nile Virus.
Information about Repellents
For more information about using repellents properly please consult
the EPA Web site (www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/alpha_fs.htm)
or consult the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), which
is cooperatively sponsored by Oregon State University and the
U.S. EPA. NPIC can be reached at http://npic.orst.edu
and Answers About Insect Repellent Use and Safety.