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Adults

EWG's Guide to Bug Repellents: Adults

July 17, 2013

 

No repellent is right every time. Click to find your best bet.

 

 

I want to protect myself against Lyme disease

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Choose a repellent with: Picaridin (20%), IR3535 (20%), DEET (20-30%) or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (30-40%)

Other things to consider:

  • No repellent is 100% effective, so take extra precautions to avoid tick bites.
  • Cover up with pants, socks and shoes and long sleeves, especially when venturing into heavy brush with likely tick infestations. Consider permethrin-treated clothing.
  • Check out CDC's Lyme Disease maps to find out if you are in a high-risk area.
  • CDC recommends only DEET (20-50%) for Lyme disease protection for adults.
  • Check for ticks thoroughly every night; remove ticks properly.
  • Natural lemon eucalyptus oil is not the same as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • Wash your hands after applying repellent; wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.

 

 

I want to protect myself against West Nile virus.

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Choose a repellent with: Picaridin (10-20%), IR3535 (20%), DEET (7-30%), Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (30-40%), or PMD (10%). Choose a concentration based on the time you plan to spend outdoors.

Other things to consider:

  • Check out CDC's West Nile Virus maps to find out if you are in a high-risk area.
  • No repellent is 100% effective, so take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
  • Cover up with pants and long sleeve when possible, especially when venturing into mosquito-infested areas.
  • PMD has a shorter protection time. 
  • Natural lemon eucalyptus oil is not the same as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • Wash your hands after applying repellent; wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.

 

 

I'm travelling out of the country.

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Choose a repellent with: Picaridin, IR3535 or DEET. Choose a concentration based on the time you plan to spend outdoors, and check with your doctor for other protective measures.

Other things to consider:

  • Risks vary by country, so consult your physician and the CDC or World Health Organization's traveler information site about risks in places you plan to visit.
  • Bug repellent alone may not protect you from malaria. Check with your doctor.

 

 

I need to be outdoors for a short time.

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Choose a repellent with: Click here if you are concerned about Lyme disease; click here if you are concerned about West Nile virus. Otherwise, consider Picaridin (5-10%), DEET (7-10%) or PMD (10%). Other botanical products may be worth considering (see note).

Other things to consider:

  • Some botanical repellents may be worth trying if pest-borne disease is not a concern, but many contain highly concentrated allergens. Effectiveness varies widely; you may need to experiment to see what works best for you.
  • Wash your hands after applying repellent; wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.

 

 

I need bug protection for the entire day.

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Choose a repellent with: Picaridin (20%) or DEET (time release 20-30%).

Other things to consider:

  • Daily use of DEET for prolonged periods may be inadvisable. Consult your doctor.
  • Wash your hands after applying repellent; wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.

 

 

I have sensitive skin/allergies.

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Choose a repellent with: Your best bet may be Picaridin (5-20%) because it is less likely to irritate skin and trigger allergies. People react differently, so you may want to try other options to find out what works for you.

Other things to consider:

  • Try repellents on a small patch of exposed skin before slathering all over.
  • DEET and IR3535 may cause eye irritation and DEET may cause skin irritation.
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus may cause allergic skin reactions.
  • Many botanical repellents contain highly concentrated allergens.
  • Wash your hands after applying repellent; wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.

 

 

Bug borne diseases are not prevalent where I live.

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Choose a repellent with: Picaridin, IR3535, DEET, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or PMD. Choose a concentration based on the time you plan to spend outdoors. Other botanical products may be worth considering (see note).

Other things to consider:

  • If the bugs aren't bad, consider going without repellent.
  • Some botanical repellents may be worth trying, but be aware that many contain highly concentrated allergens. Effectiveness varies widely, so you may need to experiment to see what works best for you in your area.
  • Natural lemon eucalyptus oil is not the same as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • Wash your hands after applying repellent; wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.

 

 

I'm going camping where mosquitos are rampant.

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Choose a repellent with: Picaridin (20%), IR3535 (20%), DEET (15-30%) or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (30-40%).

Other things to consider:

  • No repellent is 100% effective. Cover up with pants and long sleeves when possible.
  • Natural lemon eucalyptus oil is not the same as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • Wash your hands after applying repellent; wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.