Products That Prevent Insect Bites - Topic Overview
You can lower your chance of being bitten by an insect or
spiderlike animal (arachnid) by using insect repellents. Mosquitoes, biting
flies, and ticks can cause annoying bites and sometimes a serious disease.
Mosquito bites can spread infections such as
West Nile virus, a virus that causes swelling of the
brain (encephalitis), and
malaria in some parts of the world. Tick bites can cause serious diseases such as
Lyme disease and
Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Bites from biting flies
are painful and may cause a
You can buy many
different kinds of insect repellents. Some work better than others. DEET
provides the longest-lasting protection against mosquito bites.1 It is important for pregnant and nursing women to follow
these tips for safe use of insect repellents. If you have a question or concern
about the use of insect repellents, talk with your doctor.
Products that work the best
DEET. This repellent works the best. Insect repellents that
contain DEET are available in different strengths. Research shows that DEET
strengths greater than 50% do not provide much better protection than those
with 30% DEET. You get about 5 hours of protection from mosquitoes when you
apply an insect repellent to your skin that contains 24% DEET.3 Wrist, ankle, and neck bands that contain DEET do not work
Although there have been concerns about the safety of using
DEET on skin, studies over the past 40 years have not shown that DEET causes
cancer or other illnesses. Remember these guidelines:
- Do not use DEET on children younger than the age
of 2 months.
- When applying DEET to children 2 to 24 months of age:
- Use only when there is a high risk of insect
- Use repellents with the lowest concentration of DEET
available (usually 5% to 10%).
- As with all insect repellents, use
sparingly and never apply to the hands or near the eyes.
- Apply no
more than one time per day and avoid prolonged use.
- When applying DEET to children 2 to 12 years of
- Use repellents with the lowest concentration
of DEET available (usually 5% to 10%).
- Apply no more than three
times per day and avoid prolonged use.
- Do not use DEET on skin that will be covered by
Other things to keep in mind when you use DEET:
- DEET reduces how well sunscreen works by
one-third.2 If you need to use sunscreen and DEET at
the same time, put on sunscreen first and wait 20 minutes before applying DEET.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using
separate products to prevent insect bites and to protect the skin from sun
damage.3 Insect repellents and sunscreens usually have
different instructions for use because insect repellents do not need to be
reapplied as often as sunscreen.
- Be careful if applying DEET to clothing. It can damage some
man-made fabrics, such as nylon and polyester. DEET can also damage plastic
watch crystals and eyeglass frames.