Choose the Best Insect Repellent

summer hike In warm weather mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and other insects become annoying pests—and potential carriers of disease. So what’s your best protection? There are things you can do:

  • 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

There are 2 kinds of insect repellents: man-made chemicals and plant-based essential oils.The best-known chemical repellent is DEET—the common name for N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide. DEET is the main ingredient in many insect repellents. Repellents with DEET have been shown to be more effective than other products in preventing mosquito bites in particular. Repellents with DEET are available as sprays and lotions. Check the product label for information about how much DEET the repellent contains. The more DEET a repellent contains, the longer it can protect you from insect bites.Another man-made product is picaridin. Picaridin is shown to be as effective as DEET in repelling several types of mosquitoes, but does not last as long. The effects wear off after about 1.5 hours.Plant-based essential oils include citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, and soybean. These repellents work as well as those containing picaridin and last the same amount of time.

Repellents With DEET: Are They Safe?

DEET is safe when used according to directions. DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age. If you have a young child, apply the repellent to your hands first, then apply it to your child's skin. If your child is under 2 months old, protect them with mosquito netting. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not suggest using any special precautions for using registered repellants on pregnant women, or on women who are breastfeeding. Contact your doctor if you have any concerns about using products that contain DEET. See this website from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more information about the safety of insect repellents: http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/pregnancy.html . In rare cases, repellents with DEET may cause skin reactions. However, most of these cases have happened when the product was not used according to the directions, such as applying over broken skin, and using over many days without washing in between. If you think you have a reaction to a DEET product, wash the treated skin and contact a Poison Control Center near you: 1-800-222-1222 .

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