Block those insect bites

The weather is finally turning nicer and with Spring and Summer come mosquitoes and ticks.  Are you ready to battle those bites?

Mosquitoes and ticks are more than just an annoyance.  Their bites can make you sick. West Nile virus is the most common mosquito borne disease in the U.S.  But of very serious concern this year is also the Zika virus.  Mosquitoes also carry Chikungunya virus, dengue and malaria.

The most common tick-related illness in the U.S. is Lyme disease.  Ticks also carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis and others. Ticks can be infected with bacteria, viruses and parasites

Mosquite and tick repellents

Your best line of defense against these insects are bug repellents.  The Centers for Disease Control recommends using products that have been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

For mosquitoes the CDC recommends products containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and some products with oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol.

For ticks, the CDC says you should use repellents that contain 20 to 30% DEET  on exposed skin and clothing.  For clothing it also recommends products that contain 0.5% permethrin.  Permethrin remains protective on those clothes through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may protect longer.

You can look for this label to determine the length of time the product you chose should protect you:

Which insect repellent is best for you?

The choice can be difficult when you go to the drug store to find an insect repellent.  Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency has an on-line search tool that can help you select the best one for your needs.

No matter what you use, the CDC recommends following these precautions:

  • Always follow the recommendations appearing on the product label.
  • Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing. Do not apply repellents under your clothing.
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using repellent sprays, do not spray directly on your face—spray on your hands first and then apply to your face.
  • Do not allow children to handle or spray the product. When using on children, apply to your own hands first and then put it on the child. Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands because children frequently put their hands in their eyes and mouths.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy application does not give you better or longer lasting protection.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days.
  • If you (or your child) get a rash or other reaction from a repellent, stop using the repellent, wash the repellent off with mild soap and water, and call a local poison control center for further guidance. If you go to a doctor, it might be helpful to take the repellent with you.


About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at Rx411. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years. This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns. He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C.