Navigate Up

Women's Center - A-Z Index

#
Y

Print This Page

Bug repellent safety

Alternative Names

Insect repellent safety

Information

The safest bug repellent is to wear proper clothing.

  • Wear a full-brimmed hat to protect your head and the back of your neck.
  • Make sure your ankles and wrists are covered. Tuck pant cuffs into socks.
  • Wear light-colored clothing. Light colors are less attractive than dark colors to biting insects. It also makes it easier to spot ticks or insects that have landed.
  • Wear gloves, particularly while gardening.
  • Check clothes regularly for bugs.
  • Use protective netting around sleeping and eating areas to keep bugs at bay.

Even with proper clothing, when visiting an area with many insects, bug repellent, such as those containing DEET or picaridin should be used.

  • To avoid skin irritation, apply insect repellent to clothing. Test the repellent on a small, hidden area of clothing first to see if it will bleach or discolor the fabric.
  • If areas of your skin are exposed, apply repellent there as well.
  • Avoid using directly on sunburned skin.
  • If using both sunscreen and repellent, apply sunscreen first and wait 30 minutes before applying repellent.

To avoid toxicity from insect repellents:

  • Follow label instructions on how to use the repellent.
  • Apply repellent sparingly and only to exposed skin or clothing. Keep out of eyes.
  • Avoid using high-concentration products on the skin, unless there is a high risk of disease.
  • Use a lower concentration of DEET (under 30%) on pregnant women and small children.
  • Do not breathe in or swallow repellents.
  • Do not apply repellent to children's hands because they are likely to rub their eyes or put their hands in their mouth.
  • Children age 2 months to 2 years old should not have insect repellent applied to their skin more than once in 24 hours.
  • Wash repellent off the skin after the risk of being bitten by an insect is gone.

References

Fradin MS, Carroll SP. Protection from blood-feeding arthropods. In: Auerbach PS ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 47.

Updated: 4/13/2013

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com