Insect repellent guidelines and recommendations
I had published an article evaluating insect repellents about 5 years ago . The main ingredient I have consistently recommended to prevent insect bites has been Picaridin. It is still difficult to find in stores and for the most part has to be ordered online.
In addition since most people travel in the summer months and many to areas now considered high risk for lime ticks it is essential to know which products cover these as well. The high picaridin concentration products also are effective against ticks as well. Permethrin is considered the most effective ingredient for tick avoidance. However, Permethrin is not as safe to place directly on the entire body and should be applied to clothing only.
Tips to avoid mosquitos
Place a large fan by each doorway, Mosquitoes cannot fly past a strong wind force.
Spray all your plants and areas that are breeding grounds . there are many natural products that several companies are using to spray in our yard.
Empty all containers outside that contain water to avoid the mosquito breeding
Mosquito lights ( zappers) and fans to attract them work in a restricted area . Several brands are popular including dynatrap which I have found to be effective.
My recommendations for products you can easily purchase
Sawyer 20% Picaridin spray or lotion
Repel -15% Picaridin – ( Has a red Label and says Tick defense but is the same for Mosquitoes ) Available in Target and Walmart.
Natrapel – 20 % Picaridin
Wipes – Natrapel 20% Picaridin
Fan- place a large fan at your entrances angled to keep the mosquitoes from flying into the house. Or around the area where you plan on sitting in the yard.
Lime tick prevention – Sawyer permethrin
Top products recommended by Consumer Reports
Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula – 20% Picaridin
Natrapel 8 hour- 20 % Picaridin
Off Deepwoods V111- DEET 25 %
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Oil of Eucalyptus 30 %
2019 update to insect repellent for mosquito protection. As before, I used Consumer Reports ratings and suggestions as my starting point for recommendations. This time there is added emphasis on the most successful protection with less concern regarding type of spray- organic or not . Similar to last review “ Picaridin “ ingredient comes in first across the board for both effectiveness and least toxic to you and your children weighed against this effectiveness. Over the years I have tested most products since I am a personal mosquito feast. The organic and natural products do not work for me and their smell was so noxious that family and friends and my dog stayed away from me but the mosquitoes were hardly deterred .In addition many of these “ natural and organic” products have not been tested by the FDA and really can not be verified for safety, quality, ingredients, or effectiveness. With the Zika virus making the stakes higher than ever to prevent mosquito bites all individuals involved with caring for children and preventing disease are more strongly than ever recommend products that work effectively rather than are most natural. Fortunately , in this case the one I have found to be most tolerable across the board Picaridin is the most effective and least irritating.
In addition with consideration to the environment Picaridin also rates highly. Many of the organic and natural products would have contaminating effect on the environment in the concentrations necessary to garner any substantial repellent activity. But in this instance they do not offer enough protection against the Zika virus mosquito to warrant serious consideration. DEET has been found in streams and rivers and shown to have some impact on wildlife. Taking effectiveness , toxicity to children, and least possible environmental impact I recommend “ Picaridin” as my first choice in insect repellent. The only difference , the products that have been previously recommended do not have a high enough percentage of Picardin in their solution. 20 % seems to be the concentration that works the best in the Consumer Reports testing and ratings . The brands which were the most effective were Sawyer Fisherman formula Picaridin, Naturapel; 8 hour with Picaridin, . Deepwoods off with 25 % DEET was as effective against mosquitoes but not ticks, but I do not recommend that strong of a percentage of deet for children. Repel lemon eucalyptus 30% was the only non Picaridin based repellent rating as high but the smell is difficult to tolerate and it’s irritating to the skin and eyes to the point that it is not recommended for anyone under 2.
Insect protection and repellent guidelines.
- The ingredients proven the most effective and with the longest history of safety is Deet. Picaridin has been studied for 15 years and has proven to be safe and is less irritating especially to children with sensitive skin. Oil of Eucalyptus has proven to be moderately effective as well.
- Children under 2 months of age should not receive any topical insect repellent. [ Use mosquito netting to prevent any access to babies ]
- Oil of Eucalyptus should not be used on any children under 2 years of age due to the concerns regarding possible eye irritation.
- Apply it to your hands and then rub them on your child. Do not spray it anywhere near a child to avoid inhalation of fumes. In the case of Permethrin for lime tick prevention do not put it directly on your hands before spraying it on your child’s clothes and shoes.
- Do not apply it to a child’s hand, they may put them in their mouth.
- Adults should do the applying for young children.
- Apply to clothing first and foremost to avoid unnecessary skin irritation. Do not apply it under clothing.
- Apply sunscreen first before adding insect repellant.
- Sunscreen and insect repellent mixture is absorbed in a higher degree and not recommended.
- Be careful applying to cuts wounds, and after shaving. It can be absorbed more readily.
- The percentage of each ingredient correlates to the time spent outdoors. 10 % is usually sufficient. However, now we recommend Picaridin 20 %.
- There has been no reported serious illness regarding the use of these ingredients in children.
- The recommended ingredients are safe for pregnant women, breastfeeding moms, the elderly, and babies older than 2 months of age.
- Natural products that have proven moderately successful include Avon “Skin so Soft”, California Baby, and Burt Bees. And some essential oils tend to be helpful including cinnamon oil, eucalyptus oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil, lemongrass and rosemary. However, in the recent Consumer Reports review none of these natural style products were effective against the Zika carrying mosquitoes .
- Remember to reapply according to the instructions on the package .
- Pay attention to any skin irritation in areas where you apply the repellant.
- Should wear long sleeves and long pants this year. Collared shirts give more protection.
- Shoes – be very cautious with open toed sandals and crocs.
- Hat- hats offer protection not only from the sun but also keeping mosquitoes off your face and scalp. Can spray the hat before putting it on to offer even more protection.
- Try to avoid early morning and dusk through the night time without complete protection described above.
- Don’t spray near food and wash your hands before eating.
- Do not go to sleep or get in your bed before washing off the insect repellent.
Make your own natural insect repellent ( have not been proven to be as effective as the recommended picaridin products.
Base: Calendula cream – 4 0z -has repellent qualities as well
Cinnamon leaf oil -about 20 drops or 3 ml
Peppermint oil – 20 drops
Rosemary oil 10 drops
Lemongrass oil 20 drops
lavender oil – 20 drops
( I avoid citronella and eucalyptus even though they are he most effective ingredients because of their strong odor and irritating quality on the skin.
Deet products are the highest rated-for most effective by consumer reports for all concentrations . I tend to add smell and feel to the list of important criteria in selecting an insect repellant.
Consumer reports ranked Deep woods Off, Cutter Backwoods, and Off family care the most effective at 98% with Cutter Backwoods unscented and Off Family care smooth and dry much more tolerable for feel and smell to me. They all last up to 8 hours and keep mosquitoes away well. However, due to the higher percentage requirement for DEET for the Zika carrying mosquito , I prefer we avoid DEET at those levels.
Picaridin– the product I use the most has a similar effectiveness. Previously I have recommended the the lower percentage of products by Off and Cutter advanced which contain 5-7 % Picaridin. These two products have worked well for me in Florida as well as while hiking in Mosquito infested areas. Consumer reports ranked Natrapel which has 20% Picaridin very highly at 97 %. And now with the concern with a more vigorous mosquito carrying the Zika virus , based on Consumer Reports findings , the higher percentage is now recommended.
Permethrin – used in treating lice on the hair and body is a good tick repellent. It should be handled carefully and applied to clothing and shoes when going out in areas known for deer ticks.
Avon skin so soft has a smell and feel that I have never been happy with. It is ranked as more effective than organic products at 73% by consumer reports.
Lemon Eucalyptus– ( for instance Repel ) works well but the smell is generally intolerable to others. In my experiment I had to walk and jog by myself by at least 10 feet due to the annoying smell to other people in my party. My dog would not go near me or any room that had the clothes sprayed with Eucalyptus. This is not recommended for children under 2.
Organic products- based on plant oils generally are considerably less effective as a group .Bite Blocker had a 56 % rating and Burt’s Bees had a 24 % rating compared to the recommended products effectiveness by Consumer reports.
Off ” clip on repellent”– the off “fan” that clips on and distributes a fine mist of repellent by fan is moderately effective if you are still for long periods of time. It is not nearly as effective if you are moving or walking. There is a warning on it to not breathe in the fumes, which is not really possible especially for children. In addition to these findings by Consumer Reports it tends to not last nearly as long as it states on the package. I have used it for sitting in the backyard and it helps keep the mosquitoes away, but I would not recommend it for small children.
Stickers and bracelets – have been successful for many parents. I have tried them on my collar ( one on each side to avoid putting on repellent and they have moderate success in avoiding mosquito bites.
Warren Krantz MD