Protection Against Mosquitoes Using Repellents - Frequently Asked Questions
Updated information on insect repellents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
What is DEET?
The chemical DEET — N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide — is the most widely used insect repellent in the country. It can reduce the risk of being fed on by mosquitoes and ticks, but products containing DEET must be used properly.
How should repellents containing DEET be used?
- Read and follow the instructions on the label. Avoid over-application.
- Products with 10% to 35% DEET will provide adequate mosquito protection under most conditions - concentrations should be based on the duration of protection needed (e.g., for 1-2 hours use <10%, for 2-5 hours use 20%); For protection against ticks, at least 20% is necessary.
- Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
- Wash treated clothing before wearing again.
- Do not spray directly on the face, spray into hands, and then apply to the face.
- Do not apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- Do not use under clothing.
- Do not spray DEET-containing products in enclosed areas.
Is DEET safe to be used on children?
Use caution when using repellents containing DEET on children.
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, repellents with up to 30% DEET can be used on children over 2 months of age.
- Dress children in long sleeves and pants and, when possible, apply repellent to clothing rather than skin.
- Do not apply on hands or near eyes and mouth of young children.
- Do not allow children to apply repellents themselves.
- After returning indoors, wash any treated skin with soap and water.
Will using repellents containing DEET affect my health?
DEET has been used for more than 40 years by millions of people worldwide. Products containing DEET have been occasionally associated with some health problems, such as skin reactions, including rash, swelling, itching, and eye irritation. In very rare circumstances, slurred speech, confusion, and seizures have been associated with the use of DEET, particularly in children. The risk of experiencing any adverse health effects is reduced when products containing DEET are used according to label instructions.
What should I do if I have medical questions about DEET?
- If you suspect that you or your child are reacting to an insect repellent, discontinue use, wash treated skin, and call your physician.
- If you feel it is an emergency, call 911 or your local emergency service.
- If you go to a doctor or hospital, take the repellent with you.
- You and your doctor can get specific medical information about the active ingredients in repellents and other pesticides by calling the
National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) at 1-800-858-7378 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Eastern Time), Monday through Friday, or visit NPIC’s website. Information can also be obtained from the Connecticut Poison Control Center, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-222-1222.
Can I use a repellent that does not contain DEET?
Registered products that sufficiently repel mosquitoes and may help people avoid being fed on by disease-carrying mosquitoes include Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, and IR3535.
What is Permethrin?
Permethrin is an insecticide and repellent that can be used on clothing or camping equipment to reduce the risk of being fed on by mosquitoes or ticks. It can be used in addition to DEET as extra protection when the risk of exposure is high and other protective measures may not be sufficient. It should not be applied to the skin.
How do I treat my clothing with Permethrin?
If you find it necessary to use a permethrin-containing product on your clothing, the following recommendations for proper use will minimize the risk of adverse reactions:
- TREAT CLOTHING ONLY - DO NOT APPLY TO SKIN. If you accidentally get the product on your skin, immediately wash with soap and water.
- Apply to clothing in a well-ventilated outdoor area, protected from the wind.
- Only spray permethrin-containing products on the outer surface of clothing and shoes before you put them on -- do not apply to clothing while it is being worn.
- Only spray enough product to lightly moisten the outer surface of the fabric, causing a slight color change or darkening; do not saturate clothing.
- Read the application instructions carefully and do not exceed recommended spraying times.
- Pay special attention while treating socks, trouser cuffs, and shirt cuffs to ensure complete coverage.
- Hang the treated clothing outdoors and allow to dry for at least 2 hours (4 hours under humid conditions) before wearing.
- Do not treat clothing more than once every two weeks. Launder treated clothing, separately from other clothing, at least once before retreating.
- Permethrin-treated clothing can remain effective for 2 weeks or more.
- Treated clothing should only be worn when needed and then placed in a separate bag when not in use.
Where can I get additional information about insect repellents?
Contact the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Division of Environmental Epidemiology and Occupational Health at 860-509-7742. Visit the CDC website, EPA website, or Insect Repellents Essentials: A Brief Guide.
Content last updated in June 2021.