What to know about applying insect repellent

Insect repellent
© Dr. Seuss/Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego

There are definite DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to dousing yourself with chemicals designed to keep insects at bay.

Do you get creeped out by the idea of dousing yourself with synthetic chemicals strong enough to keep insects away for eight hours at a stretch? Do you also get creeped out by the idea of disease-harboring insects delivering their gifts when supping on your blood? What to do, what to do?!

There are preventative measures one can take to help avoid being eaten alive – a full beekeeping suit? remaining indoors? – but we all know how maddeningly persistent mosquitoes can be, and how sneaky ticks are, and sometimes the big guns are the best strategy. Especially as the diseases that these flying hypodermic needles can bestow upon us continue on their campaign for world domination.

Fortunately there are some great new DEET-free repellents, and some of them perform even better than those containing DEET (see link below). But even so, chemicals strong enough – even all natural ones – to ward off survival-invested insects can be strong enough to be bothersome to humans too. With that in mind, here’s what the Centers for Disease Control has to say about how to apply insect repellent:

  • Always follow directions on the label. Spray or rub the insect repellent onto your skin that is NOT covered by your clothes.
  • Always spray insect repellents in open areas and wash your hands after using.

  • Do not use under clothing.

  • Use just enough insect repellent to cover your skin not covered by clothing.

  • Heavy use of insect repellent or pouring it all over your body is not necessary.

  • Never use insect repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.

  • Do not spray insect repellents directly on your face – spray it onto your hands first and then pat the insect repellent onto your face.

  • Do not spray or put insect repellents on your eyes or mouth [please say that you knew this], and put only a little around your ears.

  • Use separate sunscreen and insect repellent products. Put the sunscreen on first, then spray on the insect repellent.

  • After returning indoors, wash the insect repellent off your skin with soap and water or take a bath. This is especially important when you use insect repellents daily.

  • Wash any clothes you treated with insect repellent before wearing them again.

In addition, the EPA has some good points too. Like check the label to see if there are warnings about flammability; and if so, do not use around open flames or lit cigarettes. Also, don't use any product on pets or other animals unless the label clearly states it is for animals.

Getting into the mind of the mosquito might help you understand what they love, and in turn may offer hints at how to turn down your mosquito magnetism. Here's a good place to start: 7 reasons mosquitoes bite some people more than others

And for more on DEET-free repellents, see: 3 top-rated insect repellents that don’t contain DEET

What to know about applying insect repellent
There are definite DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to dousing yourself with chemicals designed to keep insects at bay.

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