EWG’s 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents
July 17, 2018

EWG’s 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents : Do’s and Don’ts for Avoiding Bug Bites


  • Wear pants, socks, shoes and long sleeve shirts, especially when venturing into heavy brush with likely bug infestations. Tuck pants into socks to protect the ankles.
  • Take extra precautions to avoid bug bites if you are in a high-risk area for Lyme disease, West Nile virus, or other mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses.
  • Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas, and place nets over strollers and baby carriers.
  • Read repellent labels to learn about safe usage and protection from bug species known to infest your area.
  • Choose an EPA-registered repellent at the concentration rated for the amount of time you will be outdoors, but not longer. Find EWG’s recommended concentrations and timespans here
  • Use products with the lowest effective concentration of repellent chemicals, particularly on children.
  • Consult a physician if you are traveling out of the U.S. or need to use bug repellent daily for prolonged periods.
  • Take extra care with kids. Keep repellents away from young children to reduce risk of accidental swallowing.
  • Send kids to camp with netting for bunks.
  • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on your child. Avoid their eyes and mouths, and use repellent sparingly around their ears. Do not apply repellent to children's hands because they sometimes put their hands in their mouths.
  • Use products in lotion, pump or towelette form.
  • Try repellents on a small patch of exposed skin before slathering it all over.
  • Check for ticks thoroughly after returning indoors and remove ticks properly.
  • Wash clothing and repellent-coated skin when your kids come indoors or at the end of the day.
  • Get rid of standing water where mosquitoes breed.
  • Treat clothing containing with permethrin with caution. Wash treated clothing separately from other clothes.

Don’t use:

  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD on children younger than 3 years old.
  • More than 30 percent DEET on anyone.
  • Any bug repellents on children under 6 months old.
  • Outdoor “fogger” insecticides. They contain more toxic ingredients than repellents applied to skin.
  • Repellent candles. They may not be effective. They emit fumes that could trigger respiratory problems.
  • Aerosol sprays in pressurized containers. You’ll inhale chemicals, and you could get sprayed in the eyes.
  • Repellent mixed with sunscreen. If you reapply the sunscreen every two hours, as advised, you will overexpose yourself to repellent.
  • Bug zappers and treated wristbands.