Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

Mosquito Repellents Fact Sheet

Choosing a Repellent: which is best for you?

West Nile virus is back, and here to stay. It's important to prevent being bit by a mosquito infected with West Nile virus as you enjoy summer activities.

To avoid mosquitoes you can stay indoors between dusk and dawn, and stay away from places where they breed and thrive. But in the summer you'll often be outside when mosquitoes are. That's why it's important to use a mosquito repellent when you're outdoors.

Choose a repellent that best fits your needs based on:

  • How long you'll be exposed
  • Time of day
  • Effectiveness of ingredients
  • Age of user

Mosquito repellents are not all the same. Different brands might have different ingredients. Repellents made for adults may not be appropriate for kids, or one repellent may only offer a half hour of protection while another gives five hours of protection.

When choosing a repellent ask yourself the following questions so you know what is right for you:

  • How long is it effective? - You do not need a repellent that is good for six hours if you're only going to be outside for 20 minutes.
  • What is the active ingredient? - If you'd rather not use a chemical repellent, you may be able to find a natural repellent that will work for you.
  • Where and when am I using it? - You might not need the strongest of repellents early in the day when there aren't many mosquitoes around looking for a meal.
  • Who is it being used on? You? Your baby? Your eight year old child?

Cautions: Children should not use repellents that contain more than 30% DEET. Children under three should not use repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus because they have not been significantly tested on children of that age. Never use a repellent on an infant younger than two months. Instead, use a carrier draped with mosquito netting, or avoid taking infant outdoors where and when mosquitoes are likely to be present.

When applying a mosquito repellent:

  • Only apply repellent to exposed skin, never under clothing.
  • Never use repellent over cuts or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply to eyes and mouth.
  • Never let children handle products. Adults should apply repellent to children.
  • Do not spray when you are in an enclosed area.
  • When returning indoors, wash treated skin thoroughly.
  • Always follow directions listed on product.
  • Do not over-apply. Use only what you need.

Do not use a repellent that is combined with sunscreen. The sunscreen will need to be reapplied more often than the repellent so you might end up using too much repellent.

The following chart can help you determine the best repellent for your situation. Remember: always read the label.

Products containing premethrin are intended to be used on clothing and/or gear, but not to be applied directly to skin.

Product Name: Main Ingredient: Protection Time:
Sawyer Controlled Release (slow release over hours) DEET 20% up to 20 hours
OFF! Deep Woods DEET 25% up to 8 hours
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus up to 6 hours
Cutter Advanced Picaridin 7% up to 4 hours
OFF! Skintastic DEET 2 hours
Bite Blocker for Kids Soybean Oil 1.5 hours
OFF! Skintastic for Kids DEET 1.5 hours
Skin-so-Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535 23 minutes
Natrapel Citronella 20 minutes
Herbal Armor Citronella, Peppermint Oil, 19 minutes
  Cedar Oil, Lemongrass Oil  
  Geranium Oil  
Green Ban for People Citronella, Peppermint Oil 14 minutes
Buzz Away Citronella Oil 10 minutes
Skin-so-Soft Bug Guard Citronella Oil 10 minutes
Skin-so-Soft Moisturizing Suncare Citronella Oil 3 minutes

Products containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and picaridin are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Products containing citronella oil and IR3535 have met applicable standards of the EPA.

For more detailed information on repellents, visit the following websites:

Information for this fact sheet adapted from the Centers for Disease Control.

Background Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Sue Burke. All rights reserved.