Insect repellents are used in the spring and summer months to prevent bites from mosquitoes,
ticks, and flies. Most repellents contain deet, picaridin, or natural ingredients in varying amounts.
Selecting the best product can be challenging given the number of products that are available. Ideally,
an insect repellant should have very little odor, offer several hours of protection, and provide protection
from as many types of insects as possible.
Deet has been the most used insect repellant for over 50 years. Products containing deet will
have an odor that increases as the amount of deet increases. The amount of deet in products ranges
from 7% to 100%. As the amount increases, so does the protection and the side effects. Skin irritation,
such as a rash, is the most common side effect caused by deet. For children, it is best to use products
with 30% or less of deet. Deet should not be used with children younger than 2 months old. For young
children, clothing that covers is the best option to guard against insects.
Picaridin is similar to deet and has been used as an insect repellent since 2005. This product has
no odor, has fewer side effects and causes less skin irritation than deet. However, Picaridin does not
protect as well as deet. Both deet and picaridin can be applied to skin, but using less on the skin will
reduce chance of side effects.
There are many natural products used as insect repellants such as citronella, lemon eucalyptus
oil, and tea tree oil. These do not work as well as products with deet and picaridin. These products
should not be used in children less than 3 years old. These natural products also have side effects of
rash, redness, and allergic reactions.
Some important tips to remember about insect repellants are: avoid applying to the hands and
face, do not apply to broken or irritated skin, wash the repellant off when coming inside, apply
sunscreen before applying insect repellant, do not apply underneath clothing, and use only in the