Environmental Health
Rodents, Bats, Insects & Other Vectors
West Nile Virus (WNV)
  mosquito repellents  
  Choosing Repellents  l  Using Repellents Safely  l Helpful Links  

Mosquito repellents help protect against mosquito bites that may carry West Nile virus. Apply repellent when going outdoors, particularly between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most likely to bite.

Choosing Repellents

Several repellent containersNot all mosquito repellents are the same active ingredients differ with varying strengths and effectiveness. The length of protection from mosquito bites varies with the amount of active ingredient, physical activity/perspiration, temperature, water exposure, and other factors. Before selecting a repellent, age and length of time outside should be considered.

DEET labelThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has detailed information on insect repellents, see Updated Information regarding Insect Repellents.

Using repellents safely

  • Read the label. Carefully read before using and follow the directions.
  • Select a repellent that meets your needs. Choose the lowest concentration effective for the amount of time spent outdoors. If you will be outside for several hours, use a product that has a higher concentration of the active ingredient.
  • Do not over-apply repellent. Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin or clothing. If a thin film of repellent is not working, then apply a bit more. Do not apply to skin that is under clothing.
  • Avoid putting repellents on cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply to eyes and mouth. When using sprays, don't spray directly on your face. Spray on your hands and then rub carefully over your face, avoiding eyes and mouth.
  • Do not allow young children to apply repellents to themselves. Have an adult do it for them. When using on children, apply to your hands and then put it on the child; avoid their eyes and mouth and use sparingly around their ears. Keep repellents out of reach of children.
  • Do not put repellent on a child's hands. Children put their hands in their mouths and near their eyes.
  • Stop using if a rash develops. Wash off repellent with soap and water. Call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 or your healthcare provider.
  • When you come back indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water. This is important when using for several consecutive days. Whenever possible, wash skin between applications of DEET. Wash treated clothing before wearing again.
  • Do not use repellents near food.
  • Do not use sunscreens that contain insect repellent. In most situations, repellent does not need reapplication as frequently as sunscreen.
  • Use non-DEET repellents if you have certain skin conditions, such as irritated or broken skin, skin cancer, eczema, or psoriasis.

Helpful links

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