Choosing and Using the right Insect Repellents

Protecting yourself from insect bites is important. Insect bites are itchy and uncomfortable. Plus, insect bites can spread diseases like Zika, Malaria, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses.

How should I choose an insect repellent? 

Choose an insect repellent based on the  amount of time you need protection. Higher concentrations don’t work BETTER, they just last LONGER. (10% lasts 2 to 3 hours, 20% lasts 3 to 5 hours, 30% lasts about 5 to 6 hours…). So if you outside for 2 hours, 10% would be a better choice than jumping to 30%.

Here are the best ingredients to look for: 

  • DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N- diethyl-3-methyl-benzamide)
  • Picaridin
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (p-menthane- 3,8-diol or PMD)
  • IR3535

Products that contain permethrin also work well. You can use permethrin with other insect repellents for extra protection, but do not spray permethrin on the skin. Spray it on clothes and gear. Allow clothes to dry completely before wearing them.

Always read and closely follow the directions on the labels of insect repellents. Avoid products that have both sunscreen and insect repellent. Sunscreens should be applied more often and more liberally than insect repellents. If you  need both, use separate products. Put the sunscreen on first.

Is DEET safe? 

DEET is safe when directions on the label are followed. DEET can cause skin rashes,  but rarely. Keep in mind that there’s not much benefit using a product with over 50% DEET.

Which insect repellents can be used on children and during pregnancy?

Most insect repellents, including those with up to 30% DEET, can be used on kids two months and older. However, oil of lemon eucalyptus shouldn’t be used on those younger than three years. Double-check the label to make sure an insect repellent is okay to use on a child.

Which insect repellants can be used during pregnancy?

The insect repellents DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus are safe to use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, when used as directed.

The most recent CDC guidelines state that DEET concentrations of up to 30% can safely be used throughout pregnancy.

Tips for safe use of insect repellents: 

  • Don’t use repellents under clothing, or on cuts, wounds, or irritated
  • Don’t apply repellents to eyes or Apply lightly around ears.
  • Don’t spray repellents on the Spray on hands first, then apply to the face.
  • Don’t allow kids to handle repellents. Apply repellent to your own hands, then put it on the
  • Avoid heavy application of repellents. If a thin film doesn’t work, apply a bit more.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and
  • Never put permethrin on skin. Apply permethrin only to clothing, bed nets, or other fabrics.
  • Don’t apply insect repellent to cats or dogs. Talk to your vet about options for

[This post may not cover all possible information. It does not replace the need for professional medical care. Always follow the instructions from your health care provider.]

Source: Prepared using information from Pharmacist’s Letter March 2016