Preventing tick and mosquito bites: using insect repellents safely

Summer Health Information from the Cooperative Public Health Service Health District:  

Insect repellent helps reduce your exposure to tick and mosquito bites that may carry diseases, and allows you to continue to play, work, and enjoy the outdoors with a lower risk of disease. Use repellent when you go outdoors – especially if you go out from dusk to dawn when disease-carrying mosquitoes are most active, or if you are going into tall grass or wooded areas where ticks may climb aboard as you walk by.

Use EPA-registered insect repellents, such as those containing DEET. DEET has been available to the general public since 1957 and has a strong safety record. The American Academy of Pediatrics has approved the use of DEET on children over 2 months old. Use the EPA search tool to find the repellent that’s right for you and your family: https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you When you buy a product, look for the EPA registration number at the bottom of the label to ensure it’s been approved for use by the EPA.

Tips for using repellent:

  • Always follow the product label instructions.
  • Choose a repellent that provides protection for the amount of time that you will be outdoors. A product with a higher percentage of active ingredient is a good choice if you will be outdoors for several hours while a product with a lower concentration can be used if time outdoors will be limited.
  • Use the lowest concentration you have found to be personally effective, and apply just enough to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, then apply a bit more.
  • Apply only to exposed skin and clothing, not to skin under clothing.
  • Do not apply near eyes and mouth. Apply sparingly around ears.
  • Do not spray directly into face; spray on hands first and then apply to face.
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Do not spray in enclosed areas or near food, and avoid breathing a spray product.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
  • Do not allow young children to apply insect repellent to themselves; have an adult do it for them. Do not apply to children’s hands.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin and clothes with soap and water.
  • Store insect repellents safely out of the reach of children.
  • If you are concerned about using insect repellents, consult your health care provider for advice.

For more information about insect repellents, go to the National Pesticide Information Center website at http://npic.orst.edu/ingred/ptype/repel.html