West Nile Virus Home > Mosquito Repellent

When used properly, mosquito repellent helps reduce exposure to bites that could lead to diseases such as the West Nile virus. A wide variety of products are available. Of the active ingredients registered with the EPA as repellents, two have demonstrated a higher degree of effectiveness: DEET and picaridin. When using one of these products, apply it only to exposed skin or clothing, as directed on the product label.

What Is Mosquito Repellent?

Mosquito repellent helps reduce your exposure to mosquito bites. Not only can these bites cause an annoying, red, itchy bump -- mosquitoes also may carry diseases, such as West Nile virus, that in some cases can be deadly. Mosquito repellents allow you to continue to play, work, and enjoy the outdoors with a lower risk of disease.
 

When Should You Use Mosquito Repellent?

You should use mosquito repellent when you go outdoors, even if you're only going outside for a few minutes. It only takes one mosquito bite to get a serious illness.
 
Many of the mosquitoes that carry diseases bite between dusk and dawn. If you're outside during these hours, pay special attention to using repellent.
 

What Are the Best Mosquito Repellents?

A wide variety of mosquito repellent products are available. It is recommended to use products containing active ingredients that have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use as repellents applied to skin and clothing.
 
When the EPA registers a mosquito repellent, the agency evaluates the product its effectiveness and potential effects on human beings and the environment. EPA registration means that the EPA does not expect a repellent, when used according to the instruction label, to cause unreasonable adverse effects to human health or the environment.
 
Of the active ingredients registered with the EPA as mosquito repellents, two have demonstrated a higher degree of effectiveness. Mosquito repellents containing these active ingredients typically provide longer-lasting protection than others:
 
  • DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide)
  • Picaridin (KBR 3023).
     
Oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD)], a plant-based repellent, is also registered with the EPA. In two recent scientific publications, when oil of lemon eucalyptus was tested against mosquitoes found in the United States, it provided protection similar to repellents with low concentrations of DEET.
 
These recommendations are for domestic use in the United States. Mosquito repellent recommendations when traveling outside the United States may differ.
 
In addition, certain mosquito repellents that contain permethrin are recommended for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear, and are registered with the EPA for this use. Permethrin is highly effective as an insecticide and as a mosquito repellent. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes, and other arthropods and retains this effect after repeated laundering. The permethrin insecticide should be reapplied following the label instructions. Some commercial products are available pretreated with permethrin. This product is not to be used directly on skin.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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